When my son was in second grade, peer pressure was one of the first topics they covered at the beginning of the year. While it is usually relatively harmless at that age, we thought, “Better nip this in the bud.” We taught him at home how to identify peer pressure and make his own decisions. As he is finishing up his 3rd-grade year now, we feel he is well adjusted and comfortable in his skin. His mom (me), not so much haha!
Teenagers are famous for struggling with the negative influences of peer pressure. They dress and act in new, unfamiliar ways, motivated by a deep-seeded need to be accepted. It is a basic theory of human development that the teenage years are spent forming an identity, but with little life experience to draw from, they look to their peers for options. It can be a scary, confusing time for them as they struggle to shed their former (childhood) identity and build a new identity based on principles and morals they don’t even fully understand.
Starting to sound like new motherhood?
I was never particularly susceptible to peer pressure as a teenager. By adulthood, I felt pretty confident that my struggle with peer pressure was far behind me. Then I became a mom. In an instant, I was thrown into a new sea of unfamiliar roles and expectations. Friends I hadn’t heard from years began to reach out to me, welcoming me into the fold of motherhood. It was wonderful, but it was also overwhelming. There were basic survival skills I needed to learn, but also the world of monogrammed holiday shirts? Zoo membership options? The right color scheme and season for family pictures?
Peer pressure in itself is neither good nor bad.
It’s rarely an outward pressure from a bully trying to convince you to “just do it.” In mom world, peer pressure looks like social media posts, conversations with friends, humble-brags from other moms that make you feel like you’re not enough. Mom guilt that convinces you to do more because you see other moms doing more. It comes from within.
We want to be accepted, so we plan trips to Disney World because all the other families we know have already taken their kids to Disney World. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a mom say, “I guess it’s about time we do the Disney thing…” News flash: you don’t have to go to Disney.
We spend hundreds of dollars a year throwing birthday parties for our kids because all the kids in their class had a big birthday party. Parties our kids won’t even remember, but we hope our mom friends will. These parties must meet or exceed the level of entertainment of all the other kids’ birthday parties.
We give our preteens smartphones because all their friends have smartphones. Even though we have serious reservations, we don’t want our kids to feel left out. If everyone else has one, it must be okay. If everyone else jumps off a bridge…
None of these things are bad. Good moms take their kids to Disney. Good moms don’t take their kids to Disney. It turns out I like the monogrammed holiday shirts, but I just can’t get into smocked jon jons. What is the motivation behind the mom choices you make? Are you looking for acceptance? Praise? Also not bad. You can be a good mom that wants to be accepted and praised for her efforts. But does it bring you joy?
As moms, let’s learn to make decisions that are best for us regardless of what other people are doing. That’s the essence of peer pressure. That’s what I taught my son. If something makes you feel drained inside, don’t do it. One mom’s joy can be another mom’s anxiety. It’s okay to pick and choose what works for you and your family. It will be different for every family.
Let’s start today. Let’s show our kids that we can go against the crowd when it’s right for us. Let’s teach our kids to lean into that feeling inside that says, “I don’t really like this.” Oh, what freedom it brings.