Talking to Students About Peer Pressure

One of the most important life skills students need is the ability to resist peer pressure and to make choices grounded in their own desires and values.  This is important in everything from substance abuse prevention to bullying prevention.  In our classes, CLIMB teaches students 4 Refusal Steps. Use a role­playing exercise like the one below to practice these steps with your students!

Refusal Steps Exercise:

You are on the playground on a rainy day and your friend Evan tells you he wants to go play a game with the older kids. You follow him to the jungle gym, where you see students taking turns walking on top of the wet monkey bars. You aren’t allowed to walk on top of the jungle gym, but the recess monitor is on the other side of the playground. You want to play with your friend, and you don’t want the older kids to think you’re afraid, but you also don’t think the game is very safe … What if you slip and fall? How can you walk away without looking uncool? What if your teacher finds out what you’re doing and you get in trouble?

1) Ask questions: Encourage students to first make sure they understand what is happening in a risky situation. For the situation above, they might ask:

  • “Do you want me to walk across the monkey bars?”
  • “Are you guys sure what you’re doing is safe?”

2) Name the problem: Sometimes kids don’t know that what they’re doing is unsafe or not allowed. For the scenario on the playground, students could say:

  • “It’s against the rules to walk on top of the jungle gym.”
  • “The monkey bars are wet, we could slip and get hurt.”
  • “If our teacher finds out we played this game we could all get in trouble.”

3) Suggest alternatives: Help students brainstorm other activities they could do with their friends. At recess, this might sound like:

  • “Why don’t we go play kickball? I heard they need more players!”
  • “Do you guys know how to play four square? I bet I could get you out first.”

4) Keep the door open and walk away: Help students develop ways to leave risky situations without isolating themselves. Some examples would be:

  • “Well, I’m going to go play kickball. Come over if you want to join my team!”
  • “Okay, I’m going to see how many baskets I can make in row. Let me know if you want to try to beat me!”

Exercises like this one help students learn how to evaluate situations for risk and provides practice for resisting peer pressure and saying no!

CLIMB’s Actor Educators work directly with students of all ages to develop ways to navigate risky situations and realistically address peer pressure.