“Who has a success story from last week’s lesson on saying “NO!” to negative peer pressure’?” I asked the question not knowing if any children would respond in front of their peers. To my sheer delight, a boy’s hand shot up into the air immediately.

“Janai, my friends and I were going to beat up Bret after school. But I remembered how it felt to make a bad choice with negative peer pressure when you taught us about it. My friends and I want to make Bret feel bad. This time I said, “NO!” to the boys who wanted me to go with them to beat him up.

We left Bret alone when I said, “NO!” I felt better last night than when we beat somebody up. I don’t want to bully kids anymore. It doesn’t feel good
in my body. And when I said I didn’t want to do it anymore, my friends decided not to do it anymore, too.”

I applauded Greg’s accomplishment and his willingness to share such a profound turn of events.

Greg was a third grade ring leader of a bullying group. At the time I was funded in a rural Oregon area for several years by U.S. Bank, Cow Creek Seven Feathers Foundation, philanthropists and other community groups. My program consisted of an approach I developed 40 years ago: 3D learning. I use visual aids to create experiences for children. 3D learning means taking objects from the external world to get the attention of the children to relate to their internal world. The Self-Help Program encompassed grades K-3, 113 children learning a weekly theme with a holistic, experiential approach such as anger, stress, self-calming, negative peer pressure, lying, communication skills, setting goals, how the mind/body/emotions work together, and much more.

The technique I used: For bullying and negative peer pressure I got a jute rope that was scratchy and 12 feet long, wrapping it around each student’s back, one at a time, as the student faced me in a roleplay. It was positioned under the armpits. I pulled it toward me which caused the student to come closer as I chanted things like, “Come on. Let’s go play. Your homework is boring. You don’t need to do it. Come with me or else I won’t be your friend anymore.” Tugging all the while I was saying these things to provide negative peer pressure, the student FELT physically with her/his whole body what happens psychologically with negative peer pressure. It could be SEEN AND FELT internally AND externally.

The way the student released and escaped the pressure was to take a slow deep breath to create inner calm, not struggle with the tugging (and bullying/negative peer pressure) and simply duck under the rope to step out of the pressure and struggle, releasing it. AMAZING results! Eyes opened like lights were going on inside each student when going through the roleplay. The dynamics of negative peer pressure were grasped in a new way that made sense to them. The solution to find another way to empower themselves and not be subjected to it was very clear. They learned for themselves how bad it felt to succumb to that pressure and how good it felt to be empowered in acting, not reacting. Having the experience with 3D learning accelerated the absorption of the concept beyond solely having cognitive information or a new rule to follow for someone else. These students loved knowing for themselves.