We’ve all heard about the negative aspects of peer pressure and we’ve all warned our kids about it. However, positive peer pressure also exists and can actually have a good impact on your teen. Read on to learn why peer pressure isn’t always such a bad thing and how you can encourage positive peer pressure among your teen and his or her friends.

What is Peer Pressure? A Definition

Peer pressure is defined as “social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted.”

When we think of peer pressure, the first thing that usually comes to mind is your teenager being pushed into smoking by their friends or being pressured into using drugs and alcohol. You know, that whole “all the cool kids are doing it” scenario. The same one we were warned about when we were kids. But peer pressure doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, positive peer pressure can actually be beneficial. It can also do far more than just push a teen into engaging in risky behaviors. Positive peer pressure is when teens encourage one another to learn and grow in a positive way.

Examples of Positive Peer Pressure

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CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, by Sangudo, via Flickr

Some examples of positive peer pressure include when teens encourage one another to do well in school and athletics or they push their peers to treat each other with kindness and compassion. Through positive peer pressure, teenagers can encourage their friends to do great things and be better people.

Here are eight awesome things about peer pressure that you never thought of before.

  1. Friends encourage each other to be honest
  2. Many teens urge their friends to avoid Alcohol
  3. Many peer groups support each other in choosing not to do drugs
  4. If your children’s friends don’t smoke, they’re less likely to smoke.
  5. Nice kids expect their friends to also be nice towards one another.
  6. Peers who respect themselves also respect others.
  7. Friends can support each other in working hard to achieve goals.
  8. Friends often enjoy exercising together.

The Science Behind Positive Peer Pressure

Researchers have been studying peer pressure for decades. Laurence Steinberg of Temple University conducted a study in 2005 that found teens were more likely to take part in risky behaviors while driving when their peers were present. Clearly, this type of peer pressure is negative. But now, researchers are convinced that peer pressure can have a positive impact on teens as well.

Steinberg conducted a follow-up study in 2011 that utilized MRI machines to see what was really going on in the brains of teenagers when they are around their friends. Researchers discovered that, unlike adults, teenagers have more activity in two specific reward centers of the brain when they are in front of their peers. In yet another study, Steinberg found that teens learn faster and perform better when they are around friends their own age.

“What our study suggests is that teenagers learn more quickly and more effectively when their peers are present than when they’re on their own,” Steinberg said.

Encourage Positive Peer Pressure

If positive peer pressure can help your child achieve their goals, it is definitely something we need and want to support as parents. But how do you go about encouraging positive peer pressure? Here are three steps you can take to encourage positive peer pressure:

  1. Teach your child that they do not live in a vacuum and that their behavior always has an influence on those around them.
  2. Talk with your child them about what kinds of friends they should surround themselves with.
  3. If your child is interested in a positive role model, support their interest.

Raising kids is not for the faint of heart. No one in their right mind would say that having a teenager is easy. As parents, we worry about the negative effects peer pressure can have on our kids during adolescence. But peer pressure can actually be a good thing at times. By encouraging positive peer pressure you can use the fact that teens are particularly sensitive about how they appear to their friends to help your teenager succeed.

Featured image CC by 2.0, by Garry Knight, via Flickr

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