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Teaching refusal skills to children


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August 29, 2013
Q. How can I get my child to stand up for himself? I’ve observed he often allows his friends to have the upper hand. I am worried he may give into peer pressure when the issue is alcohol or drugs.

A. One of the reasons children succumb to peer pressure is because they do not have the power to stand up for themselves. As a parent, you can play a critical role in the development of assertiveness skills in your children.


Learning “refusal skills” can help prevent your child from giving into peer pressure. Practicing can help someone know what to do if they are ever in a real-life situation where they don’t want to do something.

Here are some refusal skills:

Say “no” and mean it,

Give a reason,

Make an excuse,

Ignore the problem,

Leave the situation,

Suggest something else to do and

Keep saying “no.”

Create a realistic situation where your child might experience peer pressure: a student trying to copy their homework, a friend trying to convince your child to steal something from the store, a friend trying to convince your child to experiment with tobacco or alcohol. Act out or role-play the part of the peer-pressuring friend while your child practices the refusal skills.

Learning to be assertive with these skills is like learning how to ride a bike . . . practice makes perfect. The more opportunities your child has to practice, the more likely your child will be able to be assertive when it really counts.

Venditti is the public information specialist for CARE of Southeast Michigan with a local office located at 21012 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods. Its mission is to educate, link and support individuals, families, businesses and communities affected by family concerns, workplace challenges, mental health conditions and the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. She can be reached at (313) 332-0972 or vvenditti@careofsem.com

The Family Center serves as the community’s hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals.

It is a non-profit organization founded to promote a deeper understanding of the role of parents and others in supporting our youth to become competent, caring and responsible community members with the motto of enriched communities through stronger families. Its motto is “enriched communities through stronger families.”

All gifts are tax-deductible.

To volunteer or contribute, visitfamilycenter

web.org, call (313) 432-3832.

E-mail questions to: in

fo@familycenterweb.org or write to:

The Family Center, 20090 Morningside Drive, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236.


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