Could the words you use with your children today make them more susceptible to peer pressure in the future?
The other day Aimee and I were walking back from swimming where we saw a little boy about to jump off the bridge into the water. He was very hesitant and to make the jump. Dad was below encouraging him to make the jump, saying “You can do it. Just do it.” which I initially thought was great until I thought about how his words could be impacting the boy emotionally. Especially because the young boy was in distress and quite freaked out at the idea of jumping. Maybe he’d have jumped and enjoyed the experience but it was so upsetting and scary that’s likely to have had more of a negative impact than positive.
Depending on the situation and the words used, seemingly innocent words of encouragement can be easily stored as future triggers to peer pressure and could make them more susceptible to it. Saying things like, “Do it, do it, do it, come on!”, “Just do it, it’s easy”, “You said you wanted to before, so just do it already”, “Everyone else has done it so can you” or “Don’t be a baby” may be enough to make them ‘take the leap’ and do whatever it is they’re being asked to but could the pressure be too much for them? Is it enough to plant the seed in the future, that if they don’t do something everyone else is doing that they will lose face, thus forcing them into less desirable situations.
I think a more empowering way to get the message across without leaving them feeling pressured could be saying something like “You CAN do it, I believe in you. But only do it if YOU want to”
Since a big part of what I do with kids requires encouragement and guidance I’ve realised I’ve needed to reprogram my automatic phrases to be more supportive and caring. I now try and say things like “You can do it, but only if you feel comfortable” so they know have belief in them, they may then find belief in themselves, but that there’s no pressure to complete something a little scary or uncomfortable. Especially because I’m a male and a brother to three siblings (one older brother, one younger and a younger sister) it was easy for me to be sort of ‘pushy’ when egging them on to try something new, and even though the care was always there, the empathy wasn’t.
Bringing that in and understanding how a child may be feeling (especially those on the spectrum who experience things a little differently to other kids) and what words would be more helpful to them has been a fantastic learning and growth experience for me over the years and I see the benefits in the kids I work with.
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