Suggest Some Good Comebacks
Teasing isn't always part of peer pressure, but it usually is. If your kid is getting laughed at because he pulls Dora yogurt out of his lunch box or practices writing his letters in a kitten notebook, help him craft a clever (and kind) response and practice it through role-playing. "For instance, ask your child to pretend he's the one doing the teasing at the lunch table. When he recalls the zinger 'The Dora yogurt in your lunch box is for girls!,' say something back to him like, 'Maybe it is, but it's delicious! If I made the yogurt, I would put one of the superheroes on it instead,'" suggests Laurie Zelinger, Ph.D., a child psychologist and registered play therapist in Cedarhurst, New York. In addition, teach your child phrases that would work for any situation, such as, "I need to think about that" and "I'm not comfortable with that." Says Dr. Walfish, "These are ways for him to set boundaries without eliciting a harsh reaction."
Build Her Self-Esteem
Confident kids are much less likely to give in to their classmates' pushiness or second-guess their own opinions. Help your child feel good about her own preferences by frequently giving her opportunities to freely discuss her likes and dislikes with you, suggests Dr. Walfish. "Listening to her without judgment -- whether it's that pink is better than blue or broccoli is grosser than peas -- will also give her the confidence to speak her mind around friends and hold fast to what she likes," she says.
Read, Don't Concede!
These picture books will help your kid understand why it's important to not give in to peer pressure.
A Bad Case of Stripes, by David Shannon - Kids will learn what happens when lima-bean-loving Camilla Cream allows others to change her rather than enjoy her favorite food.
Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes - A little mouse is proud of her flowery name, until her classmates' mocking becomes a thorn in her side. Luckily, their favorite teacher has a secret that will return her self-confidence.
Riding the Tiger, by Eve Bunting - Danny thinks that he has gained the respect of his new town when he hitches a ride on the back of a tiger. But he realizes the truth in this allegory about following the wrong crowd.
One of Us, by Peggy Moss - Looking for a group to join, Roberta James thinks that unless she totally conforms she'll never belong. But then she encounters a group that values being individuals.
Originally published in the May 2011 issue of Parents magazine.