“Oh my God!!! He’s such a follower!!”…
“She’s in with the wrong crowd. I hate the influence her friends have over her!”…
“He just can’t say no and one day he’ll end up doing something stupid with the rest of them!”…
Any familiarity there? You wouldn’t be alone. Many parents worry about their teen being easily influenced and fear their teen won’t be able to confidently say ‘NO’ when pressured to do something by others in their friendship group.
It’s well known that peer influence is significant in the teenage years – we should remember that as we’ve been there ourselves. A teen’s connection to family is diluted by a biological need to spread their wings and, as such, acceptance by the tribe can overtake making sensible decisions. While they may know their involvement in a behaviour is not a good choice, it’s just not as simple as saying no.
Teens are often afraid saying ‘no’ will alienate them from the group, and so the trick is to help them with strategies which allow them to bail while saving face with the others. Telling your teen to just say no is great in theory but usually so very hard for them to enact confidently.
Here are some tips you can share with your teen for helping them get out of a spot ….
- teach them to confidently listen to their inner voice – this requires practice and guidance but once the inner voice is clearer and louder than peer coercion, no becomes easier
- allow them to blame you as an excuse to avoid situations (Mum called me to come home, Mum said I’m grounded…. anything that will work in the situation)
- practice assertive body language so they portray confidence
- have a code word or something similar they can text you with so you can retrieve them from a situation without their friends realising they’ve used an exit plan
- teach them to respect their individuality and to look out for number one – themselves!
- arm them with some phrases to use such as… “look, I don’t feel like it, but you go ahead”, “maybe another time”, “no thanks, why don’t we do ……… instead?”, “I’m not ready for that”, “I can’t… I’m allergic” etc
- advise them to leave the situation, calmly yet assertively with confident body language
- have them find someone more like them who is unwilling to participate – there’s strength in numbers and in having an ally
It’s important to practice and rehearse these responses so your teen feels ready to deploy a “no strategy” as second nature when under pressure. Just knowing they have these up their sleeves in a given situation may just be the difference between them making a good or bad decision.
Have you got other ways of helping them to say no? Come share in the Facebook group if you have!