Negative and Positive Peer Pressure Differences

Female teens on a soccer field hugging

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Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. Your teen's friends may use peer pressure to influence them in a positive manner at times. 

The way your teen responds to peer pressure defines who they are as an individual. Are they a leader or a follower? 

Differences

As your teen grows older, their peers will play a bigger role in their life. Their friends may influence everything from what they wear to how they talk.

If your teen makes healthy choices in the friends they choose, those peers may inspire them to try new things, or they may encourage your teen to do their best. But, if your teen starts hanging around with the wrong crowd, like peers who skip school, do drugs, and break the law, they're likely to influence your teen's behavior in an unhealthy way.

But keep in mind that just because your teen engages in positive activities doesn't mean they experienced positive peer pressure. If your teen's friends pressure them into playing soccer because "it's the cool thing to do," your teen might join the team. But if they don't want to play, being on the team may have a negative effect on them.

Of course, most negative peer pressure involves more serious problems, like pressuring a teen to smoke cigarettes or experiment with drugs. Clearly, this type of peer pressure can have serious lifelong consequences.

The difference is all about the outcome. If your teen's peers convince them to do something and it turns out to be healthy for them, the peer pressure was positive. If, however, they get pressured into making unhealthy choices, the peer pressure was negative.

Examples

Most teens are terrified of being picked on or being made fun of. Consequently, they're often eager to do the things their peers tell them to do.

Here are a few examples of positive peer pressure:

  • Your teen's friends tell him he should study harder so he can get better grades. He decides it's cool to get good grades on his test.
  • A group of friends all get jobs after school, and they convince your teen she should get a job too because it's fun to have spending money. It gives your teen the confidence to apply for a job.
  • Several of your teen's friends buy their own cars. Your teen becomes motivated to save his money so he can buy his own car too.

Here a few examples of negative peer pressure:

  • Your teen has sex even though she doesn't want to because her boyfriend convinced her that is what all couples their age do.
  • Your teen skips school because it's senior skip day and he doesn't want to get made fun of for showing up.
  • Your teen purchases e-cigarettes online because her friends tell her she can get away with it.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

You don't always have to agree with your teen's choice of fashion or their decisions about how to decorate their room. But it's important to intervene when they are headed down an unhealthy road. 

As the parent, you'll still have the biggest influence over your teen, even though it may not feel like it sometimes. Establish clear rules and expectations, and follow through with consequences when necessary.

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