As parents, we often teach our kids how to handle pressure from their friends, but when it comes to our own peers, how do we handle the squeeze? Opinions from the parental peanut gallery on the "right" way to raise our kids can feel downright suffocating.
Jill Crawford, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who provides psychotherapy and supportive counseling to children, adolescents and adults, writes on her website, "In our quest to become experts about this certain fate that our children will certainly endure, our focus becomes so intense that something important might escape our attention."
Crawford continues, "And that is that we, the parents, in all of our infinite wisdom and herculean efforts, are just as vulnerable to peer pressure within our own peer groups."
Parental peer pressure can feel particularly overwhelming for first-time moms, given all the unchartered territory they have yet to navigate. After I became a new mother, every parenting decision I made felt like it could seal my daughter's fate -- "one false move" and I'd make an irreversible mistake that could wreck her life forever.
Yet, I think the longer we parent, the more confidence we can gain that our internal compass will ultimately steer us in the right direction. We can choose to make decisions based on our own family's dynamics, to go with our flow rather than another parent's point of view. Because while the basics of raising great kids remain pretty solid, the pathways are plenty.
As tempting as it might be to try to convince another mother your way is the best way, e.g., breast vs. bottle or public vs. private school, to debate personal issues is akin to battling politics and religion -- all topics best left alone.
Silence on a subject can respectfully convey that while you and another mom are friendly, you have entirely different perspectives
While you might think your child doesn't notice if you regularly follow other parents' advice, e.g., insist she take an after-school enrichment class even though her grades are stellar -- they do.
Teens can turn your willingness to bend to their benefit, explains Crawford. "On the surface, these pleas from our kids appear to simply be the manipulative ruminations of most teenagers to get what they want, right? Well, that is certainly true," she explains, "but beneath the surface of what is obvious, there may be a more subtle process at play for us. Though we may stand strong against such teen fury in the throes of battle, in the back of our minds perhaps there is a little nagging voice that wonders, 'Hmmm. Am I harsher than the other parents?'"
Teaching our kids to stand strong against peer pressure offers the opportunity to take stock of our own internal fortitude within our own social circles, and in turn, become a more confident and empowered parent.
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