Peer pressure usually has a negative meaning. Sex. Alcohol. Drugs. Ooooh that spells S.A.D. Yes, Peer pressure is often sad! (Am I the only one chuckling to myself?)
The point of this blog is that peer pressure is not always sad or bad!
As our kids grow up, there are things that they just don’t want to do. They dig their heels in and say no!
We call it a “phase” and boldly declare things like: “It’s not like she’s going to college in diapers!” And then we frequently let our kids set their own schedule to achieve goals.
I know this post will not sit well with many parents, but I write it as an option for other parents to consider. One of the most common things I hear is… but she is only 3. She will outgrow it. Unless she doesn’t.
I agree that many things will sort themselves out, but sometimes a gentle nudge by someone, other than parents, may be beneficial. I have seen it happen many times. It has happened to me personally. Many times.
As parents, one of our hardest jobs is letting go of our children and letting them find their own way. It is difficult to know when the time is right for each thing, but we must let it happen.
Too often, parents empower their kids to fail but repeatedly saying negative comments or comments supporting the child in resisting growth. Change is hard for everyone. Seriously. I love it when I am good at something and can repeatedly do well at it. There is anxiety with moving forward to the next task where failure is a real possibility.
Kids know about failure, and they seek to avoid it as well. Parents should not force kids forward, but they also should not work to actively keep them in their current status. There may not be a specific timetable for milestones to progress, but I believe parents should act as a change-catalyst to help kids grow.
I have shared tons of personal stories about progressing from a Momma Addict and Lawnmower Mom! In fact, my entire blogging career launched to distract me from continuing to aggressively oversee my adult children’s lives. However, I continue to celebrate every new milestone in their lives.
My girls were taught to try new things. If they failed, they needed to pick themselves up and get back out there. I did not encourage excuses or self-pity. LIfe is hard and you often need to fail many times before you find success.
Accepting that peers help to raise our children
Parents are credited with the success or failure of our children. Right or wrong, it is true. However, I can promise you that even though I worked nonstop to help my girls in their development, many of their life advances happened because of peer pressure.
Perhaps you don’t want to call it pressure because you are still hung up on the negative peer pressure concept. Peers can encourage you to study harder or entice you to take drugs. Either way, the events happen when parents are not around. It is a part of life.
Surrounding your children with peers who you think are good influences…well that can be deceptive, too. Remember, you are looking at young kids through the eyes of an adult. They do not necessarily show us all their features! We just do the best we can.
Peers are able to get our children do things they never thought about before. And it can be a good thing. Or even a great thing that makes a huge impact on their lives. As parents, our job is to stay involved and ensure the changes are for the better!
When parents learn about these peer pressure events, we have two options.
1. Dissect the idea and find reasons why it is not a good idea.
2. Embrace that your child wants to grow in a new direction, and fully jump on board.
Sadly, I have seen many parents continuously voice their negativity which influences their kids. I learned my lesson very early that things happened at school which caused my child to come home changed, for the better. After my first ugly outburst, I learned to keep my negative thoughts in check and help my child navigate and explore her new direction.
3 of the most impactful Positive Peer Pressure events in my kids
1. I want to be in the talent show
I shared my horrible mommy moment when my kindergartener announced she wanted to be in the Talent show. She had never done anything like this. We had never discussed anything like this. I was unprepared but someone at school encouraged my child to do this and she accepted the challenge. Talent shows remained in our lives for the next 8 years!
Talent shows remained in our lives for the next 8 years!
2. I want to play lacrosse
Me inside my head: Wait, what? You are not that kind of sports girl! You run, swim, and dance several nights on a dance company. You don’t know the rules and have never seen a game. How in the world are you interested in this. But I know, your friends are doing it now too.
Me outside: Yes! Sounds fun.
And so it began and she played all through high school and was a team captain her senior year.
3. I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Me inside my head (and a little bit outside because she was older): Wait, what? We were not outdoorsy people. We did not camp and hike and have no equipment. Can’t you dabble with hiking some local trails? Which friend announced they are going?
Me outside: Wow. Let me put my Lawnmower mom hat back on and research this trip.
Both my girls made this incredible trek and will be a life highlight forever. They have since been bitten by the true hiking and camping bug. Despite no input from their parents, my girls found ways to embrace things that we would never have exposed them to. This is peer pressure. The good kind.
My point is that when children are toddlers, they are taking their cues from you. If you are repeatedly saying things that encourage them to not change, this will be a common reaction for them. Accidental negative speech is when we say things that we do not intend to cause harm but kids internalize it.
Several examples that I hear in my office which are not helpful to young kids include:
“She doesn’t talk because she is shy”
‘He prefers to just have me carry him”
“She cannot do that, she is too young”
“He won’t want to do that”
Not one of these statements is helpful! Your child may not speak, but you should always encourage them by talking to them as if you expect an answer. No, you are not forcing them to speak but neither are you giving them the support to not talk. Show your expectations and desires and have them meet you there.
Kids are subject to peer pressure from a very early age. I suggest parents consider allowing it to help them in some areas!
7 common times peer pressure may help your child
1. Thumb sucking habit
Being around friends who do not suck their thumbs is a positive influence on your child. These kids are often not gentle about discussing the thumb-sucking habit, and this can infuriate parents who want to wait for their child to decide to stop. However, many children stop sucking their thumbs to play with new friends. That’s not a bad thing.
There are millions of adult thumb suckers! I did not know this until a few years ago when a beautiful, intelligent surgical nurse was talking about her daughter who wouldn’t stop sucking her thumb. She then floored me by saying, “But I can’t help her because I still suck my thumb.”
I couldn’t help it, but there was a deafening judgmental silence.
She continued on: I know it’s wrong and it’s embarrassing. But I have trained myself to only do it when I’m alone. Not around husband, kids. No one. It’s my dark secret. I will excuse myself to go to the bathroom! All day at work I think about it. I even do it at stop lights on the way home. It is my addiction, and it calms me and reduces my stress. I just don’t want this for my daughter.
This is a great article and book for parents with a child struggling to stop thumb-sucking. Do not assume it will go away.
2. Roller coaster fear
My children initially had no desire to ride roller coasters, but over time, it became a true fear. Every now and then, they would get brave, ask to ride…and then have a meltdown and need to be taken off.
Fast forward to middle school when all your friends are riding roller coasters on school field trips and parties. Who wants to be THAT kid always left out, watching from the sidelines? Not my daughter. She suddenly had a surge of bravery and jumped on the most ridiculously daring roller coaster she could find. Then, calmly came home and announced: I like roller coasters now.
Thanks, peer pressure.
Truthfully, I like this better than thumb-sucking because it is easier to take away. I did not say easy, but easier.
My daughters were never thumbsuckers, but they loved a nice pacifier! One was easily weaned, but the other one could not give it up. At home, if the pacifier was not in her mouth or hand, there was a meltdown. At one point, I think there were extras in every room, purse, and car. Excessive, but those of you who have experienced toddler meltdowns, you know what I am saying.
But, daycare came to my rescue! No toddler at school used a pacifier, so neither did my child. Well, not at school anyway. We had to work on weaning at home later!
Every day, I witness children who only whine, grunt and point with limited speech when they are at home. As a parent, you understand the gestures, but there are precious few attempts at articulating words.
Some children have developmental concerns which require medical professionals to help; however, others kids just have not desire to speak since their needs are being met.
In playgroups, if a child rudely snatches a toy from another child, many kids will develop speech and snatch it back shouting “MINE”. Nice? No. Effective. Maybe.
A child who takes great naps is a blessing to parents; however, when it comes time to get kids on a schedule, they often resist.
Kids in daycares and with sitters often conform to new sleeping routines easier than they do when mom suggests it. Truth.
5. Potty training
Once again, at home, potty training might be a nightmare. However, in daycare and playgroups, you may often hear great reports about the progress you have not seen.
Wet pants and accidents at home do not put the same pressure on a child as it does when the accident happens in front of peers.
6. Scary Movies
My girls would not watch scary movies. There was even some anxiety at seeing Voldemort in Harry Potter.
But as soon as they were at sleepover parties, they were all… Weee! We love horror movies. What?
7. My food is touching!
Yes, there are plenty of adults who do not like food touching. But if you think about it, there is an additional stress in worrying about where food sits on your plate for the rest of your life.
At home, parents choose what to work on. We often encourage, back off, push, demand, or wait. Most kids will uneventfully pass through these phases. But I have seen the kids who don’t. As they get older, the simple “phase” becomes a problem.
Sometimes, an outside force teaches things we cannot. So, if you are having trouble with a habit or fear, look forward to group settings where other kids may, rudely, help your child see another option.
In future social interactions, your child may receive help getting to the next phase. Just remember, peer pressure is not always bad!
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