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The Power of Positive Peer Pressure: How Friends Influence Children's Behavior

In the world of child development, peer pressure often carries a negative connotation. However, when harnessed positively, peer influence can be a powerful tool for shaping behaviour. Children are highly influenced by their friends, and this influence can lead to positive changes in behaviour. In child care, positive peer pressure is extremely important. Let's think of a toddler. Chances are, going to daycare will be the very first experience outside the safe bubble of family and immediate friends. Regardless of how much the child can cry to leave his or her comfort zone, being immersed in a pool of new behaviours is enriching. Think of it as we adults travelling to a foreign Eastern country - out of our comfort zone but we learn so much! Thus, let's explore three examples of how positive peer pressure can benefit children in a childcare setting.

1. Eating Habits: Many parents have experienced the frustration of trying to get a picky eater to try new foods. However, when children see their friends enjoying a variety of foods, they are more likely to be curious and willing to try them too. I have 3 kids at Next Gen who always get curious about what I am eating (I am a creative cook, so you will see a lot of weird combinations on my plate). Many times, children asked what my food was and even wanted to try it. One or two days go by and I see the same ingredients I use on the kid's lunch box. Another example is related to foreign food. We have Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis and Brazilians in our daycare. During lunch or snack time, it is inspiring to see children talking about their foods, the ingredients, how they taste and such in their language. Research has shown that children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they see their peers doing the same. Positive peer pressure can turn mealtime battles into opportunities for exploration and healthy eating habits.

2. Language Development: Some children may be hesitant to speak or have difficulty with language development. However, when surrounded by friends who are vocal and communicative, these children are more likely to imitate and practice their language skills. How would a child ask to play with a friend if language is not used? Of course, a child can just approach and start playing, but then the other child might start talking, asking questions, and trying to interact. Then what? That push, sometimes, is all that the shy child needs to start turning the gears and to try and say some words. We have a child with a fairly deep speech delay in the centre. The first days were challenging for staff and other children alike. However, another child started to spend some more time with the child with speech delay starts trying to talk, mastered saying her name and even just emitting sounds to show emotions. That is a great step if you ask me and it all started after a friendship was formed. Positive peer pressure in this context can lead to significant improvements in language development and confidence in communication.

3. Acquiring Good Behaviors: Children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them, especially behaviours they observe in their friends. When children see their friends sharing, being kind, or following rules, they are more likely to emulate these behaviours. We had a child with serious behavioural issues coming to our daycare for a few weeks. The child would not listen, and would often disobey requests. Our educators created a set of "daycare rules" that were often ignored by the child... until another child started to uphold and apply the house rules to other children. Believe it or not, our child with behavioural issues started following teh rules and even teachoing new children about the rules! Positive peer pressure can help children learn important social skills and values, leading to a more harmonious and cooperative environment.

In Summary, positive peer pressure can be a valuable tool in shaping children's behaviour. By surrounding children with positive role models and creating environments where good behaviours are encouraged and rewarded, we can help children develop essential social and life skills. So, let's embrace the power of positive peer pressure and create environments where our children can thrive and learn from each other.

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