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Kids do some crazy things to keep up with

their friends even preschoolers (I dare you


to eat a worm!). But as negative as it can be,
there are a few benefits of peer pressure.
Theres
no
doubt
that
peers
can
make
each
other
more
aggressive,
but
they
can also make each other smarter and
happier, says psychology professor William
M. Bukowski, Ph.D., of Concordia University in
Montreal. In fact, the positive effects of peer
influence are more important than the
negative effects.
Heres how going along with the crowd can be
a smart move after all and how you can
encourage your child to reap the rewards.
Benefit of Peer Pressure: Encourages
excellence. Students who learn with smarter
classmates tend to perform better
academically themselves, according to a 2011
study in Child Development. Thats because
kids imitate each other, especially when
theyre unsure of how to behave. They also
reward each other for acting a certain way
by laughing, smiling and giving each other
high-fives. Children have expectations of one
another, and they make those expectations
clear, says Bukowski.
Your move: Book more playdates with the kids
who model doing the right thing.
Benefit of Peer Pressure: Teaches flexibility.
Kids who are eager to fit in will turn on a
dime as needed. But while hating grilled
cheese one minute and loving it as soon as a
playmate eats it seems wishy-washy, that
tendency can develop into a willingness to
accommodate and compromise, a key feature
of all reciprocal relationships, according to
Bukowski. It may be that its okay to behave
one way in one circumstance and another way

in another, but they have to decide whats


best for them, he says.
Your move: Dont criticize the flip-floppingeven
if it drives you nuts! Remember that its your
kids way of learning to compromise and be
flexible.
Benefit of Peer Pressure: Develops empathy.
An upside to worrying so much about what
peers think is that it helps kids develop a
greater awareness of their own feelings, which
in turn improves their social skills. Its
through interaction with others that you can
learn most easily what its like to be someone
else, says Bukowski.
Your move: When your child is upset with a
friend, suggest considering the other persons
perspective.
Benefit of Peer Pressure: Prevents obesity. A
2011 study from the University of Buffalo
showed that friends influence how much a kid
eats. Individuals are influenced by the eating
and activity norms set by those around them,
says Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, Ph.D., assistant
professor of pediatrics in the University at
Buffalos Division of Behavioral Medicine and
first author of the study. And Salvys study
found that a child is less likely to nibble out
of boredom after school if shes busy playing
with a pal. Friendship is a great way to
minimize stress and boredom and the eating
associated with those feelings, says
Bukowski.
Your move: Expand your childs social network to
include kids who are active, have a positive
attitude and seem to bring out the best in your
child. With the right friends, peer pressure can be
a powerful force for good.

Webster tells us that a peer is one of equal


standing with another or one belonging
to the same societal group (that is, based
on age, grade or status). On the job, most
of us have peers that we enjoy, respect and
cultivate. We also have peers that we
abhor, ignore, and avoid. Most peer
interaction takes place informally, as
there are no lines on an org chart that

connect peers together


You might well ask, So what ?
Peer to peer interactions may be the single
most neglected lever of change. When
enlisted, they are changes most powerful
ally; when resisted, they are its most
stubborn foe. Peers in large organizations
are invaluable in spreading behavior
change across an enterprise. In that
respect, they constitute a woefully
underused set of resources, mostly
accessible within the informal elements
of our organizations.
Whenever significant numbers of peers
interact formally or informally, they
constitute a force to be reckoned with.
When they share mutual respect, they will
listen to, learn from, and secretly support
one another in ways that can shape
opinions, create resistance, or generate
energy. Left unattended, their interactions
may or may not be supportive of important
enterprise priorities.
Look at high performing organizations like
Southwest Airlines, Apple, FedEx or the
U.S. Marine Corps, all of which rely
heavily on natural, informal networks to
keep peer pressures positive. The Marine
Corps Gazette receives dozens of letters to
the editor every month from ardent
Marines who want to emphasize what it
means to live our values versus display
them. The Marines take their simple values
(honor, courage, commitment) extremely
seriously, and when violations occur, the
Gazette hears about it informally but
compellingly. Similarly, any regular SWA
passenger can attest to the informal
networks that flourish among stewards,
gate people and baggage handlers its
very clear that they take seriously their
intent to make passengers feel good.
This is easier said than done though elite
military units, for example, and peak
performing enterprises around the world
have been at it for decades. In the U.S.
Navy, for example, the informal
camaraderie among Chief Petty Officers
transcends oceans, continents and other
geopolitical barriers; most of the time it is

a force for wisdom, character and courage.


In fact, it is interesting that some of the
most powerful informal peer networks
are found in command and control
institutions. Sometimes, a peer network is
the best way to work around a formal
structure that gets in the way of getting
stuff done.
To illustrate further, cohorts of incoming
associates in professional service firms
often form into informal classes that
provide professional support to their peers
for years after entry. Last but not least,
successful fund-raising efforts for
prestigious institutions like Harvard,
Stanford, and Columbia take advantage of
subtle peer pressures among class mates to
obtain donations from different graduating
classes. Peers in the class of 2004
unconsciously compete with peers from the
class of 1983 and university coffers
benefit.
So we are well advised to pay attention to
what goes on in our peer interactions
and (if we are leaders) we are even wiser
to make a balanced effort to influence what
goes on among various peer networks. This
is true whether we are actually in the
specific peer group under consideration
or somewhat removed as leaders of the
broader organization where various peer
groupings coalesce.
How can you ignite positive peer
pressure? Ask yourself some questions.
As in individual, with respect to my
peers:
Who do I think of as my peers? Why do
I consider them my peers? How would I
like to add to this network?
Why do they view me as one of their
peers? What do I do that connects me to
them? What do they do that connects
them with me? How can I make better
use of these connections?
Why do I respect them? Why do they
respect me? (Do they respect me?) How
do I want them to feel about me?
How do they influence my views of
what goes on around here? How do I
influence their views? How do we

complement and energize one another?


What could I do to sustain a more
positive interaction with my peers? How
could this benefit the company?
As a leader, with respect to the peer groups
under my jurisdiction:
What behaviors could inspire a
customer-responsive winning
performance by my part of the
enterprise?
Where are the cross-organizational peer
groups that I can tap into to help
influence those behaviors emotionally as
well as rationally?
Who are the natural hubs or
influencers in those groups? What do
they do that most others do not do? How
can I stimulate more of those behaviors?
How can I gain the confidence and
support of peer-to-peer interaction in
changing behaviors of others?
How can those hubs help me to
excerpt a more positive influence on the
shared values of my organization?
Have you experienced the positive or
negative power of peer to peer networks in
your organization?
Jon R. Katzenbach is a senior partner at
Booz & Co. and founder of the Katzenbach
Center at Booz & Company. Zia Khan is vice
president of strategy and evaluation at the
Rockefeller Foundation and a senior fellow
at the Katzenbach Center. The two have
collaborated on a new book, Leading
Outside the Lines, to be released in April
2010. This is the first in a series of blog
posts related to the book about the ways
managers can lead outside a companys
formal boundaries.

Positive Peer Pressure


encourages obese kids to have
healthy lifestyle
Never again shall you shudder in fear
when you hear the term peer pressure .
In fact, you should rejoice at the very
sight of peers coming together for a single

cause, e.g. weight reduction for good


health. How is that possible, you ask? Lo
and behold! There is something called
positive peer pressure and it is very
beneficial for kids if utilized properly.
Recent studies have shown that obesity
among children can be countered through
positive peer pressure which leads many
children towards adopting an active
lifestyle. Peer groups can encourage other
members to indulge in clean activities by
discarding all the bad influences from
their lives.
Peers mentoring in action
The latest research conducted by
Canadian researchers from the University
of Manitoba, shows that when older kids
teach younger children about importance
of diet and exercise, the latter seems to
lose weight and become health conscious.
This clearly shows how much peers listen
to each other and also helps in
identifying the causes of childhood
obesity.
The researchers said that the initiative
proved successful when obese kids lost an
average of half an inch around their
waist by improving their knowledge
about the benefits of diet and exercise. In
the process, the self-esteem of these
children was also recorded to have risen
considerably. This might be one of the
best examples of friends with benefits
witnessed among peer groups.
Planned to perfection
This research was part of the program
called Healthy Buddies that provides
lessons on physical activity, healthy
eating, self-esteem and body image. The
instruction is given by 9 to 12-year-olds
to 6 to 8-year-olds.
A total of 19 schools were randomly
selected to use Healthy Buddies
curriculum on their regular instruction
during the 2009-10 school year. During
the first year of the program, the
researchers noted changes in waist size
and body-mass index (BMI), along with
physical activity, heart fitness, self-image
and knowledge about healthy living.

The children in the Health Buddies


project showed positive results while the
regular curriculum class did not show
much improvement in their body image.
How to have a healthy body
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Avoid foods that are high in fat,
cholesterol and salt.
Parents should limit the screen time
of their kids to save them from
becoming couch potatoes.
Let your kids choose any physical
activity that is easy to conduct and
interests them.

Positive Peer pressure


Giving in to group pressure can be a good
thing, according to youth volunteers worldwide
who use peer education to change behaviour
for good.
WE have all been there, seen it, felt it, the
intense pressure that a group can impose on
individuals to think and act in certain ways.
Peer pressure is often negative the pressure
to wear certain clothes, listen to certain music,
engage in certain sexual behaviour, do certain
drugs, or adopt certain beliefs. However, as
millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent youth
volunteers will tell you, sometimes it is OK to
give in to pressure and follow your peers.
It is a great feeling of satisfaction to know
that the youth in my community are changing
their behaviour, says Ana File, 22, a Cook
Islands Red Cross Society youth volunteer who
has been working to influence her peers for
seven years through an HIV/AIDS peer
education prevention programme.
A few years ago, it was unheard of to
distribute condoms, and if you were seen
holding one, it was only for a joke, she says.
Now, I am constantly asked for condoms and,
recently, 1,000 were distributed in just one
night. Knowing that were making local youth
more aware makes all the hard work
worthwhile.
The programme in Cook Islands is one of

many examples of successful peer pressure.


Julie Hoare, senior HIV/AIDS prevention
officer at the International Federation, says
many National Societies run youth peer
education programmes. They are probably the
most commonly used approach to HIV
prevention in the International Federation.
Peer education can be used to reinforce
school-based curriculum programmes or to
reach more vulnerable youth subgroups, she
says.
Young people are more easily influenced by
their peers than other age groups. They
understand each other and speak the same
language. This can be channelled in a positive
way through peer education. Its very
important to involve young people in
programme planning and design, as well as
implementation.
Shared success
Youth peer education draws on the credibility
that young people have with their peers.
Research suggests that if people believe the
messenger is similar to them, they are more
likely to personalize messages and, with
support, change their attitudes and
behaviours. Peer education works because
educators identify with their peers,
communicate more easily and understand
their behaviour. Furthermore, behaviour
change among marginalized or vulnerable
groups is more effective when done by their
peers.
Peers create a more comfortable environment
for questions and discussions. In Armenia,
Red Cross youth peer educators often receive
requests from adults, such as parents,
teachers and priests, to join their sessions,
but the answer is always the same. One of the
volunteers, Tatevik Ambardzymyan, 21, firmly
explains that adults can only attend the first,
general session of the Armenian Red Cross
Society HIV/AIDS peer education programme.
Without the adults around, the teenagers are
more open, they ask questions and listen
eagerly to the information we provide them.
And thats what its all about, she says. We
just have to give the adults this information
later, since they find it so interesting, she
adds with a smile.

Global reach
In the International Red Cross Red Crescent
Movement, youth peer education is employed
in a variety of programmes. In addition to HIV
prevention and sexual health, it is used to
address stigma and discrimination, prevent
substance abuse, teach about land mines and
road accidents, human trafficking and
violence, encourage healthy living and
environmental protection, and promote
voluntary blood donation, to mention some
examples. The methodology works in many
areas and is equally effective in all parts of
the world. Peer education avoids many issues
related to cultural differences, as the peer
educators by definition share the same
background as the young people they work
with. They are effective and credible because
they have inside knowledge of their audience
and use appropriate language and
terminology.
In Honduras, Red Cross youth volunteers are
trying to reduce the impact of juvenile
violence through peer education programmes
that aim to rehabilitate young people most at
risk including drug addicts and street children,
and reduce gang mentality. In Bulgaria and in
several central European countries, peer
education is the method of choice to combat
and prevent human trafficking, as youth
volunteers work in schools to make young
people realize that it could happen to anyone.
And in Lebanon, many young people get their
first chance to discuss sexual health and
prevention through the HIV prevention
programme.
I had some information from my fianc, but
today was the first time I ever saw a condom
and learned how to use it, says Itaf, a 22year-old psychology student who participated
in a peer education session with the Lebanese
Red Cross youth section. Its not common to
discuss these issues in school or at home, and
theres a lot of information we need to know.
Sex is usually presented as a scientific subject
and nothing is taught about the practice, she
explains.
Many youth programmes simultaneously
employ several methods to reach their goals.
In the Save-a-Mate (SAM) youth programme

run by the Australian Red Cross, youth


volunteers give first aid and advice at events
where young people consume drugs or alcohol
and they conduct peer education on the
dangers of substance abuse. The programme
also conducts first-aid training for young
people in general and the staff of pubs, clubs
and venues in particular. Building the capacity
to deal with emergencies among staff in
nightclubs and other venues popular among
youth, SAM saves lives that could be lost to
substance abuse. The awareness campaigns
include posters and displays in public places
and venues. SAM volunteers reach their peers
and build a culture of empathy and caring.
Direct benefits
In addition to empowering their peers, the peer
educators also benefit directly from their
work. They learn important skills related to
designing and delivering effective
presentations or workshops. More importantly,
they learn to make decisions, master
information relevant to their own lives and are
recognized as leaders by their community,
thus committing to responsible behaviour.
Dmitry Strizhak, 18, a Kazakh Red Crescent
Society youth volunteer, says he has gained a
lot from volunteering. He has made a lot of
friends and learned how easy it is to help
others. Working for the Red Crescent I
realized how much we can do, he says. It
can be a visit to a lonely elderly neighbour or
a meeting with mates to share knowledge
about HIV prevention. As soon as I joined the
Red Crescent I discovered that its not difficult
to make a difference for people. All that is
required is good will.

How Positive Peer Pressure


Works
Peer pressure has become a big part of
our teenagers lives. Whether they are at
school or work, peer pressure can affect
their output and even impact their
general outlook on life.
All of us, at some point in our lives, have
had to deal with peer pressure. The need

to follow the crowd and do what majority


of us are doing forces us to do things or
take up activities which we wouldnt
otherwise. This is especially true for
teenagers who are easily influenced by
their surroundings or people they
socialize with. However, recent studies
have shown that peer pressure might
have an upside to it; that in certain
environments peer pressure can inspire
an individual to be a more focused and
determined individual. Lets examine
how positive peer pressure works and the
impact it has on ones confidence and
personality:
Pros of peer pressure
Teenagers tend to follow the crowd. If they
are caught in the act of smoking or
drinking they cite peer pressure as the
main influence behind their actions. Its
a continuous struggle for parents to
figure out how to help teenagers deal
with peer pressure, especially when they
arent always around to supervise their
activities. What parents fail to
understand is that in some instances peer
pressure in the right environment can
work for the benefit of their child. When
a teen makes the right choice under peer
pressure doesnt that count as a plus
point?
According to research, if properly
harnessed, the same pressure can
motivate individuals to stay focused and
work hard towards achieving their goals.
Positive effects of peer pressure on
teenagers are also evident by the example
of a student who is motivated to get good
grades because his friends are getting
good grades an action that can be
attributed to positive peer pressure.
Adopting Good Habits
Positive peer pressure can help you
reflect on your actions and amend your
ways to become a better individual.
Observing others working hard to achieve
their goals will definitely encourage you
to step up your game and strive towards
something positive. When a teen knows
that his teammates are practicing hard to

become better basketball players then it


will directly affect his own performance.
He will put in twice the time and energy
to raise the level of his game and ensure
he has a place on the team. Similarly a
kid who knows that his best friend aces
English because he regularly reads
storybooks will feel compelled to read as
well.
Having a group that exerts positive peer
pressure can also help you give up bad
habits and pick up healthy ones that can
shape both your personality and your
future. A change in perspective about life
and motivation to do well because of
pressure from your peers can actually
become inspiration in that instance.