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Peer Pressure in Primary Schools

Emma is a Teaching Assistant who works for Protocol Education in Wolverhampton.Today she discusses the issue of peer pressure in Primary schools and it's effect on her students.

“Johnny did it first!” Peer pressure in primary schools.

The greatest advice my mother ever gave me was the cliché "don’t be a sheep be a shepherd". Not exactly revolutionary or groundbreaking to hear at the time but it has actually had a profound effect on my life.

Have you ever noticed how when one child needs the toilet there is suddenly a mass show of hands from desperate children who up until recently were working happily? It's almost as if their bladders are in sync with each other. How many times have you caught a child misbehaving only to hear them sob “.. but Miss, Johnny did it first!” (Only for you to reply “If Johnny jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?” ).

It’s natural that children want to feel accepted by their peers - it's probably been passed down through evolution. After all who wants to be left out to the wolves? In a modern day classroom the other children can be just as scary! However, when peer pressure starts changing children’s behaviour and making them do and say things that they wouldn't as an individual, then it becomes a problem. It takes a lot of courage to just say "no" and walk away when all your friends are doing something. After all, you wouldn't want to be left out with those wolves...

The school I spent two terms at recently would hold weekly votes on a golden time activity. Peer pressure had become so rife that the children were ordered to close their eyes and put up their hands to vote. Such was the lure of social acceptance some children would still peek and wait to see what their friends opted for so that they could vote the same. The only child who always requested extra numeracy or quiet reading time and didn’t care what the others thought has Aspergers syndrome.

Is it any wonder that children find comfort in conformity when schools insist that all children adhere to a strict uniform policy. At the same school one girl was constantly being told that her stripy, colourful tights, her big wooly jumper or her bright pink Doc Martin’s were not appropriate for school. Personally, I loved her confidence and sense of individuality in a sea of red jumpers and grey trousers.

Peer pressure doesn’t just affect children though. How many  parents have stopped and thought about their child’s demands for the latest DS game “because everyone else at school has it!” or  queued for hours at Christmas time for the latest fad toy? Yes, that’s peer pressure. It doesn’t improve much as they get older either. Then they want the latest trainers so they won’t be left out or start smoking because their friends say it’s cool.

It is important that children, as social beings, make friends and fit in with others their own age but it’s just as important for them to grow and develop as their own person, with an independent mind, and not a "hive mind".

With any sense of individuality being drummed out of them by a uniform policy is it any wonder that their behaviour is becoming uniform too?

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Tags: EmmaH, Teaching Assistant, Peer Pressure, Primary Schools, Support Worker, Uniform Policy, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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