Ms Amy Woodgate | Director of Girls’ Boarding and Head of Middle School
“I was young and caught in the crowd
I didn’t know then what I know now
I was dumb, and I was proud
And I’m sorry
If I could go back, do it again
I’d be someone you could call friend
Please please, believe that I’m sorry.”
~ Kate Miller-Heidke ‘Caught in the Crowd’ (2008)
These lyrics form a part of the hit song ‘Caught in the Crowd’ written by Australian singer/songwriter, Kate Miller-Heidke . Now almost 15 years old, the lyrics in this song continue to resonate as an exploration of peer pressure and what it means to be a bystander when navigating those challenging teenage years. In the song, Kate Miller-Heidke tells the story of ‘James’ and her reflections on ‘being caught in the crowd’ and not standing up for what she knows was wrong.
After sharing the song with the Middle School students, I challenged them to truly think about those times where they may have been ‘caught in the crowd’, where they stood back and did not step up when something wasn’t right, where they worried more about what people thought of them or where they used words or actions that they know can hurt others. We discussed the power of our words, that words matter and that speaking up, not falling back into the crowd, takes courage but is something that each of us can do.
Australian psychologist, author, keynote speaker, Justin Coulson from Happy Families, is passionate about enhancing the wellbeing of our young people and offering support and guidance to the adults in the lives of our children to promote positive connections and meaningful relationships. In an article about peer pressure, Dr Coulson describes the 4Ps to prevent peer pressure:
‘Priming’ is about the influence of the environment – that what surrounds us can influence our thoughts and our actions. Coulson suggests that the primes in our children’s environments can affect their decision making, they can help them or hinder them and as key adults we have the power of priming their environment with good influences.
According to Coulson, the Power of Plans is about goal setting to help determine our priorities and our values. Planning helps our teens and young people know what they want to say ‘yes’ to, and have the confidence to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t aligned with their goals and plans.
Significant adults, whether parents, grandparents, family members, role models or family friends, all provide an important protective factor for our young people. The relationships with key adults influence our children’s wellbeing, resilience, values and decision making. Coulson does recognise, however, that maintaining these strong relationships can be challenging. We know that our teens will test our limits and take warmth for granted but ultimately still need to know that with boundaries, they have a safe place to fall.
The final P in the article is about Preparation. To prepare our young people to respond to peer pressure when it comes, we need to provide them with the language and actions to say no, to stand up, to step up or to seek help. Role play scenarios, provide examples, open the door to conversation and simply support teens to do what feels good, rather than what they may feel pressure to do.
I think we can all probably reflect on those times in our school years when we felt that tug of peer pressure, where we got caught in the crowd, and where, perhaps like Kate Miller-Heidke in her song, we wish we could go back and make a different decision. I do believe that sharing these stories with our young people is important and helps them know that what they are thinking and feeling isn’t unlike what others have experienced and that perhaps stepping out of the crowd is in fact the most courageous thing they can do.
Film Clip : ‘Caught in the Crowd’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIDarYJHCpA
Article : The 4Ps to prevent peer pressure in your teens – https://www.happyfamilies.com.au/articles/4-ps-to-prevent-peer-pressure-in-your-teens
Image by <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/individuality-concept-among-silhouettes_19117044.htm#query=stand%20out%20from%20crowd&position=2&from_view=keyword&track=ais”>Freepik</a>