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One of the most frustrating potential feelings emerges with the realization that our children are succumbing to negative peer pressure which could lead to delinquent behavior.

One reason for their frustration is that parents feel incapable of influencing who their children hang out with. It is true that parents cannot select their children’s friends, but they can influence choices by providing honest feedback about how they view particular individuals. In order to do that, of course, parents must attempt to put themselves in situations where they can spend some time with these friends.

Before parents are in a position to influence their children’s choice of friends, they must develop an understanding of positive and negative peer pressure works.

In order to avoid violent and criminal behavior, teenagers must seek out those who are at low-risk in terms of violent behavior. Youngsters must choose friends who are not consumers of alcohol and/or drugs. The youths must try to differentiate those friends who intend to perform well In their academics and those who have a history of violent behavior. It is helpful to become involved in varied activities including clubs, volunteer work, and sports, so that they will avoid the boredom that is often produced by long periods at home and directionless “hanging out.” Anti-social behavior is often a reaction to feelings of boredom. 


What Parents Can Do to Encourage Positive Relationships

Probably parents’ first instinct is to let their teen child know what they think of particular friends of theirs of whom they disapprove of. This approach, however, is short-sighted and ineffective. It puts the parent at odds not only with their child, but likely the teenager enlists the support of their criticized friend to the cause.

What works better for parents is to express the general concerns they have around negative peer pressure and work with the youngster at seeing if these concerns can be applied to a particular individual. For instance, if a friend of an adolescent you have responsibility for has been arrested or given detention for a certain behavior, it is fair to state that you don’t want the youngster to continue a relationship with someone who may again lead him or her down the same path. It is important that parents be clear about what their expectations are for behavior and for selection of friends who favor positive behaviors. In order to help parents enforce the rules they have set, they should have consequences in place for non-compliance – – use of car, timing of curfews, etc.

It is also important for parents to make their home a safe and fun place for their children to spend their time. Things work best when their children want to invite their friends over to share with them enjoyable equipment, activities, and routines. The more parents know about their children’s friends, the better prepared they will be to help guide their children toward positive relationships.


The Difference Between Positive And Negative Peer Pressure:

It is essential that youngsters learn the difference between positive and negative peer relationships.

A positive friend is someone who consciously tries to help his/her peers stay clear of trouble. Negative peers either don’t care what happens to their so-called “friends” or through their conscious or sub-conscious actions have the effect of contributing to their delinquent behavior.

If youngsters are to improve their selection of friends, it is critical that they go through the following steps:

  • Be clear that they are committed to eliminating negative peer relationships in favor of positive relationships;

  • By experiencing our “Leader/Follower” and “Peer Pressure” exercises (presented at the end of this excerpt) acknowledge whether they are particularly vulnerable to negative peer influence;

  • Be willing to sift through the youngster’s close friendships – with the help of parents and counselors – and objectively look at the impact of those friendships on both positive and negative behavior;

  • Be committed to reducing or eliminating the ability of negative friends to contribute to their potentially delinquent behavior.

In order for the above process to work, the following conditions must be in place:

  • Parents must know who their child’s close friends are, to the extent that they have observed and formed opinions about their impact on their child’s behavior;

  • The youngsters must be clear what kind of personality traits they wish their close friends to possess;

  • The youngsters must consciously select his/her friends, based on their criteria, and not allow themselves to be selected based on someone else’s criteria.

What follows are two exercises which can help steer a youngster towards positive peer


These questions can be posed with individual youngsters or in group.

1. How do you determine who your true friends are?

2. Who are the friends you spend the most time with?

3. Do you need to fit into the group?

4. How important is it to be judged “cool” by others?

5. Which friends influence your behavior the most?

6. Are your own expectations of yourself more important than what others expect of

7. Did any of your friends play a part in your getting into trouble?

8. When asked to do something you’re not sure about, how do you decide what to do?

9. What is the worst type of trouble you have been in the past two years?

10. Are their plusses as friends more important than their negative impact on your behavior? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

11. Do you need to change friends?

This exercise is best conducted with individual youngsters

A teenager’s susceptibility to peer pressure is often determined by whether he/she acts more like a leader or follower. Our program helps them decide which role they tend to assume. If they are exhibiting “follower behavior,” they may then seek to try on “leader behaviors.”


Enter “Y” for “yes” or “N” for “no” in the spaces at the right:

Do you….

1. Feel okay expressing an unpopular opinion when a group of your peers is around? ____
2. Let your partner know if you sense there is something wrong with your relationship? ____
3. Do what the majority does, since the majority “must be right?” ____
4. Walk the streets with someone you’ve just met who asks you to? ____
5. Follow your conscience when you’re not sure how to act in a situation? ____
6. Criticize peers who make offensive or prejudiced statements? ____
7. Consider loyalty to friends important – even if this presents a risk of getting into trouble? ____
8. Criticize a disruptive person in class who is making it difficult to hear the teacher? ____
 9. Think you’d intervene if your friend is being bullied right in front of you? ____
10. Suggest solutions when the group you’re in has a problem? ____
11. Find your partner usually decides what you’ll do on dates? ____
12. Like to play a role in solving conflicts within a group? ____
13. Take drugs or alcohol because that’s what everyone else is doing at a party? ____
14. Wait for others to choose you as a friend? ____
15. Tell someone in your family that you love them, before they say that? ___
16. Apologize after both persons behave badly during an argument, before the other person does? ___
17. Break off a relationship with someone you’ve been in trouble with, before they do? ___