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​​​​​Parenting PrinciplesIssue12345

Teaching Children How to Protect Themselves

As a parent, you cannot be with your child 24/7. This becomes even more true as they grow older and become involved in more activities outside the home. To protect them from the many threats and dangers they’ll face, you need to arm them with the ability to protect themselves when you are not around.

One of the greatest threats your child will face when he/she is not around you is peer pressure to engage in negative or harmful behaviors (doing something dangerous, taking drugs, cheating, engaging in criminal behavior, etc.). One fundamental way to reduce the influence peer pressure can have on children is to help them develop a positive moral foundation early on so they intuitively know what is right and what is wrong. You can accomplish this by teaching social skills and modeling positive moral behaviors yourself. Then, you may want to reinforce this teaching/modeling with spiritual or religious instruction.

In addition to negative peer pressure, children will experience societal pressures to achieve positive goals — getting straight “A’s,” making the sports team, scoring high in a music competition or getting into a good college, for instance. You can empower your child by teaching coping skills that will help him/her effectively deal with stressful, pressure-filled situations. You should also try to maintain a strong, supportive relationship with your child by talking often and keeping the lines of honest communication open.

Children can be incredibly resilient, but they can also be quite vulnerable at times. They look to their parents for cues about how to handle potentially dangerous situations. This is why it is so important for parents to model positive behaviors for ​them.

Teaching Activity

Practice Resisting Peer Pressure

This is a role-play activity for you and your child or teen. Think of several scenarios in which your child might be pressured into engaging in negative behaviors. Then, act out a scenario where you and your child play specific roles. For instance, you could play an older child who is trying to get your child to smoke marijuana. Or, you could pretend to be a younger child encouraging your child to try something dangerous. Before beginning the role-play, go over the steps of the social skill, “Resisting Peer Pressure”:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Use a calm, assertive voice tone.
  3. State clearly that you do not want to engage in the inappropriate activity.
  4. Suggest an alternative activity. Give a reason.
  5. If the person persists, continue to say “No.”
  6. If the peer will not accept your answer, ask him/her to leave, or remove yourself from the situation.

Parenting Strategy

Preventive Teaching

To help your child resist negative peer pressure and avoid other potentially dangerous situations, you must preventively teach social skills he/she can use. Teaching these skills ahead of time, and modeling them yourself, prepares your child to do the right thing when real-life situations occur.

Social Skills for Younger Children
Social Skills for Older Children

Here are ​the steps for using preventive teaching to teach skills:

  1. Describe the desired behavior (skill).
  2. Give a reason for using the behavior (skill).
  3. Practice.

Coming up in Issue 3

Preparing Children for Real-Life Situations


Practicing SODAS with Your Teen


Corrective ​Teaching

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