How does peer pressure affect your life and family?
Has your child said to you, "But everybody else is doing it!"
Have you said to your child, "If your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump off a bridge?"
How does peer pressure affect your parenting? Do you give in to the peer pressure of other parents?
The kind of peer pressure we feel relates directly to the kind of peers we have. Our social circle can dramatically affect our parenting. While nursing a toddler on a bench at the park might be shocking in some circles, in others a mother feels twinges of guilt because she didn't nurse her child past 24 months. Some parents feel pressured by their friends to take their kids out of school and homeschool, while other parents face constant criticism for making that very choice.
If we do something because everybody else is doing it, regardless of how it fits with our children, we are parenting by peer pressure. It takes a huge amount of courage to parent consciously, not blindly embracing how our peers are parenting. No matter how right or wise or intelligent our peers may be, we have to figure out what works for us, our children and our family. And no matter how right we think we are, we need to remember that, as inconceivable as it may seem, not everyone can or should parent exactly like we do. The challenge then is to figure out what is authentic to our family, what works for us, and how to identify when we are giving into peer pressure with negative consequences. This is easier than you might think. We must simply look to our relationship with our children. When there is stress, anger, animosity, hurt or lack of connection then we need to find the cause. When joy, peace and connection are missing from our family we need to consider how we are parenting and what changes need to be made to better meet our family's unique needs.
Our peers may insist that a consistent bedtime routine at the same time each night is necessary for our children to learn good sleep habits. We may have a child who has regular melt downs at bedtime. We need to learn about different approaches to sleeping, and pay attention to our child's verbal and non-verbal communication, to find a way to meet that child's sleep needs. Our peers may have families who believe complete freedom regarding when and where to sleep is necessary for children to grow up listening to their bodies and knowing what they need. We may have a child who thrives on routines and prefers to sleep at the same time each night and we may need to be home by a certain time to support that child in getting to bed "on time." If we are happy and healthiest when we sleep on a schedule then our family's approach to sleeping may also be different from our peers who are content sleeping different hours each day. If we have different sleep needs then our children creative solutions to meeting everyone's needs will be required.
We cannot justify our parenting by saying "everybody's doing it!" If the other parents pushed their children off the bridge would you push your children off the bridge? Just because all the other parents send their children to school doesn't mean we have to send our children. On the other hand, if all of our peers keep their children home from school and we have a child who wants to go to school it doesn't mean we cannot send our child to school. If all of our peers put their babies into cribs we can choose to have a family bed. If all of our peers have a family bed but that is causing lack of sleep for some members in our family than it may be time to come up with creative solutions regarding who sleeps where and with whom each night.
There are times when we may need to find new peers. If our peers consider parental needs as more important than the needs of children instead of considering everyone's needs as equally important, if they do not treat their children with respect, if we come away from time with them feeling beat down and discouraged instead of supported and encouraged, it is time to find new peers. If our peers parent through control instead of connection, punishment and praise instead of partnership, and retribution instead of respect it is time to find new peers. Finding new peers can be hard. Leaving behind old social circles may be emotionally difficult. When we find friends who have a positive impact on our relationship with our children the sense of community and support adds depth and richness to our lives. We respect each other and support each other in finding ways to meet our family's needs. Consider the parents you call your friends, do they have a positive impact on your parenting? Is it time to find new parenting peers?