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Handling Peer Pressure and Saying No

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW

Because sexuality involves relationships, it necessarily involves the manipulation and the seduction of other people. Consequently, it is useful for parents to teach their children how to recognize and decline to participate when people try to manipulate or seduce them into sexual activity that is not in their best interests. Boys and girls both may benefit from role playing troubling seduction scenarios in which they have the opportunity to assertively say "No". Role playing and similar "what if" exploration opportunities that communicate parental concern and practical coping strategies can function like a vaccine or inoculation, strengthening kids' self-esteem and their ability to successfully fend off unwanted or unhealthy attention.

peer pressureUseful role playing will go beyond simply teaching kids to say No, and additionally help children practice responding to seducers' (or predators') further manipulative taunts and shaming tactics. For instance, a boy who is being pressured to have unwanted sex might be told that his refusal to participate means he "must be gay". A statement like this is absurd and manipulative. Most adults would brush it off without a second thought. However, to a young and inexperienced child a comment like this could be devastating. Helping children know how to respond if being accused of "being gay" (where "gay" is intended as an insult and a shameful state of affairs) may help them to be less swayed by the manipulative intent of that remark.

Similar manipulative remarks which children may hear from peers and ought to know how to respond to include, "If you loved me, you would do this", or "If you don't do this, I won't be your boy/girlfriend anymore".

More information about nurturing children and instilling self-esteem can be found in our Middle Childhood Nurturing article. More information on assertive communication may be found in our Psychological Self-Tools - Online Self-Help Book topic center.

 

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