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Helping Teens Say No

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Teaching Individuality and Weighing the Options

Teach your teen to: Look out for number one.
Why it works: Tweens and teens are so attached to one another -- and to groupthink -- they forget to look out for themselves as individuals. Explain to your child that by thinking of herself as a solo act she can get out of tough situations without a drama. "Let's say your kid realizes there is a lot of drinking going on at a party," says Michele Borba, EdD, author of 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know (Jossey-Bass). "Telling her friend, 'Look, I'm uncomfortable here, and I'm leaving -- but I'll understand if you want to stay' does two things. It gives your daughter the freedom to get herself out of trouble. And, since she's not exerting any goody-two-shoes pressure on her pal, it will probably save the friendship."

Teach your teen to: Rate all the options.
Why it works: Kids get invited to do things all the time, many of which seem relatively harmless to them. Have your teen practice weighing both sides of every offer: What good can come from letting Mr. Not-Smart-But-Popular copy your science homework? (Not much. You won't make his buddy list because of this.) What bad can come? (Plenty. You could get caught, get suspended, and make your parents irate. At the very least you'll probably have to deal with the same annoying request from this kid -- or another one -- tomorrow.)