As soon as we see the words ‘peer pressure’ we assume it is meant for our children. There is so much press coverage around this issue and many parents are unhappy with their children’s friends. We worry about the influence their friends may have on them and get concerned that they may get involved in situations that could be unhealthy. There are strategies that we can put in place, but with widespread bullying how can we protect our children? We hear of young people suffering more and more with mental health difficulties and the limited support on offer. It’s no wonder parents don’t know which way to turn.
However, do we ever stop to consider the peer pressure we are under? Do we worry about what other people think? Are our buying habits influenced by what others have?
It all gets rather complicated when we think about what prompts our behaviour. Think about when you last got angry or upset. What was the trigger? So often we say to our children that we are angry or upset with them because they haven’t done what we have asked them to do, or they have been rude to us. And, of course, these are a valid reasons. However, do we ever stop to ask ourselves whether these are just the reasons, or have we compared our lives, or our children to our friend’s children and that underneath our displeasure with them is our comparison to other people’s lives?
We live in a society that judges how well you are doing by your status. What job are you working in? How much money are you earning? What kind of house do you live in? What are your children wearing? Even down to the way you talk and look can be a judgment either for or against us. That can leave us with an internal voice telling us that we’re not doing very well. Our perceptions of what others maybe thinking or feeling can then prompt our behaviour.
But is it correct. Do we bother to check it out or are we too scared of the possible answer? The thing is that if any of our friends told us how they thought we may be judging them, we’d probably be saying to them, ‘don’t be daft’. The problem is that we aren’t so generous to ourselves.
There are reports of people on social media desperately trying to make their lives look interesting and exciting. The reality is often very different. This can lead people to feel they are somehow missing out while friends are having much more fun. It causes dissatisfaction with life. How can we compete when our ‘friends’ or ‘family’ are enjoying life more, have better jobs, children that are cleverer or better behaved; ‘friends’ and ‘family’ that take better holidays, drive more expensive cars, have the latest gadgets, have more ‘likes’ for a selfie than we do.
Peer pressure can be just as destructive for adults as it can be for children. When babies are young they are checked against milestones. This is to identify if a child has problems. However, for parents this can be a nightmare. If your child isn’t doing as well as someone else’s then you instantly start to feel worried. The pressure is on. A solution needs to be found. This pattern is then repeated as your child grows. Parents on the school gates are constantly checking whether their children match or overtake their peers reading books. On and on it goes. We all get sucked into it. So what’s the answer? And if we decide to opt out of being pressured will it make a difference to our children?
In Chapter 2 of Parenting A Violent Child, we introduce you to the Window to Self Knowledge. This is a way of looking at your behaviour and working out why you do the things you do. When you link this with Chapter 8 (which reflects on questions including: What are your family rules and consequences?) it will help you to look at your trigger points and what might be prompting your behaviour. Please read this having peer pressure in mind, not just for your children but also for you. Then turn to Chapter 10 (which reflects on questions including: How well do your nurture yourself?) and realise that there are so many things you are doing well. You are unique and gorgeous and do not need to follow others. Give yourself some space – space to just be you; space to be free and uncultured by other’s expectations.