Someone I once worked with was accused of bullying a colleague. The victim stated that he made her feel “crap” about herself and her ability. He replied that he cannot make her feel anything – only she had control over her feelings.
So can our feelings and emotions that drive our decision-making be influenced by others? Humans are not robots and rely on socialisation to thrive. We need to fit in. Therefore, we care about what others say and think about us. Try to argue about it but we all want to be liked in some shape or form. We all want to belong somewhere.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Joe O’Reilly and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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When I worked in a prison, I often wondered how a few officers kept control of the wing during association time. They were massively out-numbered. A friend introduced me a theory of social regulation. We are regulated by our peers. Just because Jimmy is throwing a rubber, doesn’t mean everyone will. Children will see how the majority work and behave and be influenced by this. Some more strongly than others. We feel pressures from our peers.
Peer Pressure should not be regarded as a negative and should be seen as a potential force for good. As with all pressure, positive peer pressure can influence thoughts, as well as actions. It is an important tool for developing social skills for young people.
Sometimes, peer pressure can be indirect – the child not realising behaviours around them are influencing them. It can be a great tool for any teacher. Discussing it with classes and individuals. Stop during lessons to show them examples – draw attention to positives and see the ripples! Seeing the influence they have empowers them and give them responsibility for understanding the impact of behaviour. See the subtle peer pressure and grow it.
I had 2 boys in my class. They were part of a group of 8. 2 started work first. “Well done…keep going…etc.”. Then 4 more started. As I spoke to them, I would talk to the others through them. Praising them (not over the top), revisiting the task.
Whilst they worked, 2 were messing around. I had worked hard with the class, developing skills to deal with inevitable disruption (it was something that was regular in their parent class). They were fantastic. Everyone working except these 2. Then 1 stopped what he was doing and started to work. The other sat in his seat, looking annoyed – and dare I say dejected.
I wasn’t ignoring him, I was carefully, subtly, watching him as I helped others. Slowly, he began looking around and seeing others. All working. He “angrily” picked up his pencil and began to work. Did I make a fuss of him? No, I walked over to the child near him and looked at his work, again reinforcing the task and expectations for the work. Not for him but the others. I sat down at the front of the room and looked around smiling, ensuring he saw me. He grimaced back – it was how I knew he was ok! Interaction. Job done. I had said nothing to him. His classmates had done the pressure – the hard sell.
Result; engagement in work. The child himself, will feel he made decision, he took control and responsibility, working because he wanted to, not because he “had to”. For me, this approach helped to teach the child that he did not need punishing to improve his behaviour. He needed to use peer pressure.
Teachers encouraging children’s positive behaviour not only reinforces to them but stimulates the need to belong. The influence of having positive influences can be a catalyst for change and an inspiration at an early age, adding value to their sense of “self”.
My work with young people tells me they want to be viewed positively – despite the presenting behaviour.
Lastly, discuss the pupil’s role in peer pressure and reinforce their power to influence others. If you are confident with your pupils, set them tasks to see if they can get people to behave differently! Have some fun with it!
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