Peers can have a profoundly positive influence on kids. Take, for example, the child who fast tracks through potty training because her peers in pre-school or daycare are no longer in diapers. Or, the child who supports her friend by cheering her on during a basketball game and sends the message that she is valued. As we raise daughters to become independent thinkers we need to teach them how to develop their judgement to navigate this world.
Here are some tips to help you help your daughter out especially if the peer group pressure is negative.
- Noticing. Help your daughter to recognize positive peer group pressure. Are her friends being encouraging? Do they recognize how others are feeling? Do they reserve judgements and avoid put-downs? Teach her to notice when others are encouraging. Make affirming statements such as “I noticed how supportive Ramona is being cheering on all her teammates.”
- Teach your gal to stand up for herself. If your daughter is facing a problem with a peer, help her to find a solution on her own. This will teach her how to develop her own protective responses and become more self-sufficient. Role-playing through dress-up can be a great way to accomplish this. Or better yet, use her Barbie dolls to act out scenarios that might be troubling for her. When one displaces the problem on to the dolls it becomes easier for a child to problem solve. This way she can find the right words to make the right decision for herself.
- Stay true to your values. Parents sometimes worry that peer pressure will undo the values they’ve tried to instill in their children. And, kids will test those values. For example, you overhear your 8-year old daughter making disparaging remarks to her friend about a classmate. “She’s weird. Did you notice how she wears the same clothes every day?” Here is an opportunity to reinforce your values, but wait until you’re alone. Avoid being preachy and say something like, “I was surprised to overhear you talking unkindly about that girl. You’re usually so compassionate and kind. She comes from a big family and it may be hard for her parents to afford things – even clothes. I wonder how she feels not being able to dress the way you girls do.”
- Be a good role model. How does your behaviour reflect the values you are encouraging? Do you criticize friends, family members, neighbours? Take a personal inventory every once in a while and notice if your messaging are contrary to what you are trying to teach your daughter.
- Encourage leadership. Recognize that it’s hard when your child takes an independent position because she believes it is the thing to do. The child who learns to limit the negative influence of peers is a true leader with a steady moral compass. Talk to her about women leaders and what it takes to be one. Consider the many different career paths her Barbie dolls have taken. Ask questions like “What do you think it takes to become a woman astronaut? What kind of woman do you think wants to be a veterinarian?”
Through encouragement we can raise daughters who are their own women – women, who can navigate the world with confidence. At the end of the day, we want our girls to feel that they do not have to follow the crowd, and that they can be strong and independent. We want them to know that the world is a place where possibilities are limitless.
We welcome your feedback. Join the discussion.