Parenting Peer Pressure
Most of the time when we think of peer pressure, we think of kids or teens and the pressure they face to fit in or to be popular. It’s as if we believe that these pressures will magically disappear when we graduate college or get married and have children.
The pressure from our peers, however, never really goes away. The pressure will evolve as we advance through the different stages of life, but we are pressured by our peers nonetheless.
I remember when my children were young I desperately wanted to fit in with the other moms in my peer group. Because of this, I allowed them to have a greater influence on me as a parent than I should have. If they felt that the best parental practice was to drive my son to school instead of allowing him to ride the bus, even when the bus was perfectly safe and much more convenient, then their choices became my choices.
In fact, a lot of their parenting practices morphed their way into becoming my own. Looking back, I can see clearly that this peer pressure was a two-way street. As a young, inexperienced mom with people-pleasing tendencies, I looked to others for approval and judgment on my parenting skills. On the other hand, these moms were making choices for their own families and were very vocal about their parenting opinions. I felt the parenting peer pressure whether that pressure was intentional or not. Their messages about motherhood were loud and clear and the message I heard was:
- Good moms drive their kids to school
- Good moms only listen to Christian radio/worship music
- Good moms say home with their kids
- Good moms breastfeed
- Good moms never yell at their kids or lose their temper
- Good moms always have a clean and organize house
- Good moms have smart, well-behaved and well-adjusted children
- Good moms through elaborately themed birthday parties
Even deeper messages from some were that good moms homeschool, have their child in every church activity and every sport available, monitor all of their television, computer, video game time, and don't let their kids play with certain other kids.
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All of this pressure, both real and imagined, may have dictated some of my decisions as a mom, but they certainly didn’t make me become a good mom. Instead, I became a stressed out from trying to be perfect mom. I became a mom who was so tense from trying to please everyone that I drove my husband and children crazy!
While not every mom suffers from the intense people-pleasing that I once did, I know that I am not alone. I’ve seen the evidence of this peer pressure in the eyes of parents during every stage of their child’s life. I’ve seen it when parents apologize for certain choices they have made that may not gel with every other parent. Chances are, if you take the time to look, you will see it as well.
Cell phone usage is a great example. There is no right or wrong age to give a child a cell phone. Some parents will give phones to kindergarteners and some won’t give them to their teenagers. Every parent has a reason for this decision and any time that decision gets too close to either end of the spectrum, you can hear the defenses arise because of the peer pressure they feel from being judged by other parents.
Sometimes you can see this in parents of children with behavioral problems or learning disabilities, especially when they are young and haven’t been diagnosed or found the help they need. They will apologize for their children and you can see the fear in their eyes that they aren’t living up to the good parenting standards of their peers. There’s a guilt inside them that the problems their child faces are the direct result of their poor parenting skills. That guilt is only confirmed when they see the eyebrows of other parents rise.
Parenting peer pressure is all around us. Every time we as parents make a decision regarding our family or our children, we feel that pressure. Even if it isn’t intentional, even if it has the best of motivations behind it, even if it doesn’t impact our decisions, that pressure causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. It causes us to question ourselves. “Am I a good parent if I allow my child to do this?” “Am I a good parent if I don’t allow my child to do this?” “Am I a good parent if my child behaves this way?” “Am I a good parent if my child isn’t keeping up in school?”
Quite frankly, parenting is tough enough without this pressure!
Do You Feel Parental Peer Pressure?
- Do you find yourself apologizing for decisions you make as a parent?
- Do you strive for perfection or try to live up to the parenting standards of your friends?
- Do you find your peers giving you unsolicited advice?
- Do you allow the decisions your friends make influence your own?
- Do you compare yourself and your children to others and find yourself not measuring up?
If you answered yes to most of the questions, take a moment and think about what you are doing. Don’t allow others to dictate how you raise your children. No one loves your children more than you. No one knows your kids better than you. No one can make decisions that are in their best interest better than you. While it’s fine to seek advice from trusted friends, don’t allow your peers to determine for you what good parenting looks like. Take a stand. Take a stand for you and for your children. You can do this.
Do You Pressure Other Parents?
- Do you constantly voice your opinion on what parents should or should not do?
- Do you talk amongst your friends about what other parents you know are doing that they shouldn’t?
- Do you project a false air of perfection in public?
- Do you judge the decisions other parents make?
- Does your body language and eye contact express your disapproval?
My guess is that most people who pressure other parents don’t ever realize they do this. They feel their words of wisdom or counsel as helpful not judgmental. Even if you didn’t answer yes to the questions above, please think about your words and your actions the next time you talk with other parents in your peer group. Pay attention to your body language and eye rolling. If you find that you are one that contributes to the pressure other parents feel, then stop. Stop right there. Stop adding to the pressure. Stop judging. Stop giving unwanted advice. Stop talking bad about your friends. Your idea of helpfulness is hurtful.
Parenting isn’t easy. Parenting is tough. Parents need the support from other parents, not judgment and peer pressure. I know there are bad parents out there. There are abusers and neglectors and parents who lack the skills they need to help their children grow and thrive. Most parents, however, really do love their children and seek to do what is best for them in each stage of their life. These are the parents who need to be encouraged, not discouraged. They need to be supported, not pushed down
Thank you for reading! I hope you found this helpful. If you enjoyed reading this hub, please be sure to vote it up! I’d also love to hear about your own experiences with peer pressure as a parent. If you’ve been pressured or judged by others, please share your story in the comment section below.