Parenting approaches differ from household to household. Boundaries, beliefs, discipline and values are just a few of the differences. I, like most parents I presume, have an opinion about what is “good parenting” versus what is “not so good parenting”. There are things I see in other families that I think, “there is no way I would allow that”, but there are just as many things I see that I regretfully say “now why didn’t I think of that”.
I compare and I strategies.
I worry if I’m making the right decisions and I worry how to fix the poor ones I have already made. And if I wasn’t already my own worst enemy, there is parental peer pressure all around too. Well meaning friends who want to help.
“Well, in our house we…”
“I noticed your child didn’t…”
“Perhaps if you tried a different approach…”
My kids see it too. They use it against me. They know how to play the system.
“But so-and-so’s mom let’s them …”
“When we are at so-and-so’s house we get to …”
“I wish you were more like so-and-so’s mom, she …”
When friends make off the cuff remarks about some of my parenting decisions, instead of taking it with a grain of salt, I let it fester and boil underneath my skin. I mull it around wondering if there is some truth to their opinion that is in opposition of mine. I feel compelled to defend my choices over and over in my head. I second guess the very things I spent countless nights coming to a decision about, and I secretly criticize the choices they make for their families.
It is exhausting and unproductive. It weakens the relationships I have with my friends. It also confuses my children and blurs the boundaries of our household when I question my parenting style because of someone else’s concerns or contradiction.
It might send a message to my children that I am not really in charge.
Perhaps it even sends a message that they themselves, gasp, are in charge.
So what is the solution? Do I abandoned all relationships that parent differently than I? Should I only introduce my children to families that look exactly like ours so that they don’t feel left out? Is it okay to point out things that I think are weaknesses or unacceptable behavior in other families?
No, on all accounts.
My kids see and hear so much more than I like to admit. It comes back to haunt me often. They know who we are friends with and what we think about others. My girls are fully aware of which families are similar and which families are different from our own. They pay attention to who I spend the most time with, who I praise often and who doesn’t get invited back to our home. But I also believe that creating a social circle that is too small and lacking of diversity only reinforces the idea of exclusivity and superiority. There has to be a balance. I just don’t always know how to do that effectively.
Peer pressure is all around. It follows us from childhood to adulthood and maybe the best way to teach our kids to stand for what they believe, is to set the example in our own social circles.
“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.” – How to Handle Parenting Peer Pressure, Laura Owens