It is break time and Paul watched his friends running out of the classroom to join other children on the playground. As he stood up from his seat, he looked across the expansive school lawn from his class window, the discussion he had with Chinedu, his classmate echoed in his mind. “I prefer to stay alone, he thought to himself.” Just then, Chinedu walked up to him. “Aren’t you coming to play basketball with us?” Chinedu asked sternly. “E-m, e-e-m…,” answered Paul somewhat timidly. “Are you trying to chicken out of the game? You had better come with us,” said Chinedu, with a tone of finality.
Children like Paul are suffering from one form of pressure or the other. They are being pushed toward making a certain choice, either good or bad.
As children grow older, they are faced with some challenging decisions to which they don’t have a clear right or wrong answer. For instance, while at school, a child could be faced with decisions in making choices such as playing football or basketball, or even hanging out with friends when all he wants to do is stay alone. Other decisions may involve serious moral questions, like whether to cut class, try cigarettes or alcohol, or lie to his parents.
“For a child, making decisions on his own is hard enough, but when other people get involved and try to pressure him one way or another it can be even harder. There is a high tendency that children who are of his age, like his classmates, who are his peers, would want to influence him. Most times, they may try to influence how he acts, to get you to do something. It’s something everyone has to deal with, even adults,” says Banke Ogunmodede, a sociologist.
Peers influence both adults and children even if they don’t realise it. It might just be by spending time with one another. “You learn from them, and they learn from you. It’s only a part of the human nature to listen to and learn from other people in your age group, as an adult or child,” says Ogunmodede.
Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. For example, positive peer pressure can be used to pressure bullies into acting better toward other children. If enough children get together, peers can pressure each other into doing what’s right. Peers can have a positive or negative influence on each other, depending on the circumstances, and a child can give in to peer pressure for various reasons.
“Some children give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other children may make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone’s doing it” may influence some children to leave their better judgement, or their common sense, behind,” explains Chinyere Nduka.
It could be very difficult for a child to walk away from peer pressure, yet he must try all he could to avoid the negative ones. “It is tough to be the only one who says “no” to peer pressure,” observes Nike Oguntade, a parent and educationist, but a child can do it. Paying attention to his own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help him know the right thing to do.
Inner strength and self-confidence can help him stand firm, walk away, and resist doing something when you know better. It can really help to have at least one other peer, or friend, who is willing to say “no,” too. This takes a lot of the power out of peer pressure and makes it much easier to resist. It’s great to have friends with values similar to yours who will back you up when you don’t want to do something.