Preschool Peer Pressure: How to Cope with Outside Influence

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As parents, we often think of peer pressure as a problem for tweens and teens.  Kids don’t really try to conform to the behavior and choices of their friends until around middle school, right?  Wrong.  Even at age 4, peer pressure is all too real.

The truth is that the minute we send our kids to preschool they are subject to outside influences. Teachers use different behavior systems and might teach your child about subjects that you would otherwise avoid for the moment.  And all families are different.  You might be adamant that Justin Bieber is for tweens only, but the mom around the corner might feel his music is appropriate for a preschool girl.

Yes, the moment we send them to school, drop them at a drop-off play date, or even turn on the TV, we open our children up to outside influences.  The simple fact is that we can’t shield our kids from outside influences forever.  They will learn about SpongeBob, like it or not. 

What we can do is build strong relationships and rely on open communication so that our little ones are equipped to make good decisions and stay true to themselves along the way.

Increase parental involvement:  Parents who spend time playing with their kids build strong and healthy relationships.  Sure, kids need independent playtime and parents need quiet time.  But when you take an interest in and get involved in your preschooler’s play, you build trust and strengthen the bond.  Strong parent/child relationships are no match for a little preschool peer pressure.

Promote independent thinking skills:  The imagination is a wonderful thing.  Preschoolers learn and grow by leaps and bounds when they are encouraged to use their minds.  Toys are fun, but so is a box of recyclables.  Teach your preschooler to think independently by creating something from nothing.  Sit back and watch.  Praise her efforts.  Talk her through her struggles.  Problem solve together.  The more time preschoolers spend thinking outside the box the better developed their independent thinking skills will be. 

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Provide information:  Preschoolers hear “no” all day long.  It is their job to test limits and boundaries and it is your job to uphold those limits and boundaries.  It’s all part of growing up.  But when children are confronted with outside influences it can be confusing.  When something is new and different, they crave explanations.  Put things in context for them.  Provide simple explanations so that they understand this new information.  When my three year old came home from preschool wondering about the music of “Justin Beaver”, who was described to her as “the best singer ever”, I simply let her listen to a song.  25 seconds into it, she decided to stick with Christmas music.

Talk about what other people do:  This is not to say that you should criticize what other people do, simply discuss it.  The truth is that all families are different.  We all have different rules and priorities.  It’s perfectly acceptable to point that out to your preschooler.  There will probably even be times when you question something the teacher discussed in school.  It’s also perfectly acceptable to be honest about that.  We can’t control what our children learn about when we aren’t present, but we can talk about it openly and honestly after the fact.  Doing so helps our children process the information in preparation for the next time.


Praise individual choices:  It is never too soon to appreciate individuality.  Kids conform to the majority because they want to fit in.  Friendship is necessary at every age.  When you empower your child to rely on instinct and personal dreams, you show your child that her opinion matters and she can trust her own judgment. 

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Has your preschooler experienced peer pressure?  How did you handle it?  

Image via N. Hempeck

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Preschool Peer Pressure: How to Cope with Outside Influence

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. Lulu says:

    This is really quite helpful.


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