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by Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Author of Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing

How do you help kids say no to peer temptations so they act right? Shoplifting is rising among our youth - and the number one reason is peer pressure. Making reparations is a critical element of raising conscience.

It takes real moral strength not to be influenced by others and say no to peers. Here's two points: first, kids can't say no unless they know what they stand for. We can't assume that they do. It's critical to spend a lot of time discussing what's right and wrong with your daughter - then please add the WHY question. Why is it wrong? What could be the consequence if you made the wrong choice? Save Dear Abby letters to talk about. They make great discussion starters - use newspaper clippings, and TV shows. TALK AND TALK AND TALK. Moral instruction is what helps to build conscience. Our kids have to have a firm base of right and wrong.

Then we must TEACH our kids assertive skills so they feel confident standing up to their friends. Learning any new skill takes lots of practice so I'd suggest you share it, and then rehearse it (role playing the parts of another peer who is asking your child to cheat, lie, shoplift, and take drugs). Your child needs a repertoire of "rehearsed lines." Kids need to know what to say and do so she CAN say no. Here are a few ideas of how to teach SAYING NO:

  1. The first step is to ASK yourself - do you feel comfortable with the choice your friend is asking you to do? Tell your child to always use her gut instinct - if she FOR ANY REASON doesn't feel comfortable then say no.
  2. Say NO firmly. Hold your head high and make your voice sound like you mean it. Do not insult back. Stay firm. Don't give in.
  3. Tell WHY. Give the person reasons why you don't want to do it: "I could get in trouble, it's illegal, and I’ll be grounded."
  4. Be a broken record. Just keep saying no.
  5. Offer an alternative. "Let's go to my house. Let's go skating, let’s go home." Invite the person to do something different. Don't expect the peer to agree - just offer.
  6. Don't back down - ever. Say no. Make sure you give your child the rule - "If you ever need help - call. I'll pick you up any place any time. No questions asked." Make sure she also knows how to make a collect phone call to you.

These are tough times. Kids who stand up to others are generally more assertive - but we can teach that skill to all kids. Rehearse it. Make sure your child clearly knows what she should be saying no to.

Moral development is a slow gradual process - but it continues to grow. We just need to make sure our kids are growing in the right way.

About the Author: Michele Borba, Ed.D. A former classroom teacher is an internationally renowned consultant and educator who has presented workshops to over half a million participants. She serves on the advisory board for Parents Magazine and is the recipient of the National Educator Award. Dr. Borba is the author of eighteen books including Building Moral Intelligence and Parents Do Make A Difference (Jossey-Bass), named by Child Magazine as an "outstanding parenting book of the year." She is a frequent guest expert on television and National Public Ratio talk shows including The Today Show, The View, ABC Home Show, The Parent Table, and is quoted in numerous national publications. She lives in Palm Springs, California with her husband and has three sons.

© 2002 by Michele Borba. Please contact for permission to reprint.

Dr. Michele Borba is an internationally-recognized educational psychologist who has presented workshops to well over a million parents and teachers. She is an honorary board member for Parents and frequent guest on TV and NPR talk shows including Today, The Early Show, The View and Fox & Friends. Author of 20 books, this article is adapted from Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing, selected by Publishers’ Weekly list of “among the most noteworthy of 2001.” Her latest book is 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know: Getting Back to Basics and Raising Happy Kids. To find out more about her work check out: http://www.moralintelligence.com.

© 2006 by Michele Borba www.moralintelligence.com. Permission to reprint if left intact.

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