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How to Teach Refusal Skills for Peer Pressure

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated June 13, 2017

As children grow older, life can get more challenging and confusing. A common situation for many preteens and teens involves negative peer pressure to participate in potentially harmful or dangerous activities. To prepare your child to withstand this peer pressure, she’ll need strong refusal skills. Refusal skills simply involve refusing peer pressure and standing alone on principle when a situation arises, states the Utah Education Network.

Teach your child the first step in refusing something with peers – a simple “No thanks,” according to the Education.com website. Encourage your child to deliver this short dismissive in a strong and firm voice -- she may not even have to say anything else.

Prepare your child for the possibility that she may need to repeat her refusal more than once. If peers continue to pressure her, instruct her to maintain eye contact and deliver a strong and confident “No thanks” or “I said no.”

Explain the difference between an assertive refusal and an aggressive refusal to help your child refuse successfully. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism CoolSpot website ascertains that an assertive refusal means standing straight, keeping eye contact, speaking firmly and politely, and choosing active and strong words that don’t give a “wimpy” impression, such as "I won’t” instead of “I can’t,” for example. An aggressive answer might involve reacting with anger, threatening others or criticizing others -- all of these actions could cause more problems for your child.

Suggest that your child try a joke or redirecting the activity as a refusal method. She could say something about turning green with one puff of a cigarette or she could suggest a different activity that would change the focus of the activity away from the negative suggestion.

Advise your child to walk away from the peer pressure situation if the other kids don’t accept her refusal. She might deliver one more “No thanks” and then walk away confidently, suggests Irene van der Zande, founder and executive director of the KidPower website.

Practice refusal skills, advises the Education.com website. Start by having your child ask you to engage in harmful activities and model effective refusal responses so she can see how they sound. After your child hears several different options, switch places and begin creating various scenarios where peers might try to pressure your child into doing something harmful or dangerous. Keep practicing until your child sounds and feels confident.

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