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No doubt children face peer pressure; but it can also affect parents. Some tips for Indian moms to deal with peer pressure.
By Sandhya Renukamba
As adults, we are supposed to have moved beyond the pit-falls of peer pressure that we battle with in our growing-up years. Yet, as human beings, we depend on those around us who have similar battles to fight for inspiration – as parents, these would be other parents.
Naturally, when some parent does something that we admire, we aspire to do the same, measuring ourselves against them, seeking acceptance in this peer group as ”cool”’ parents. In these competitive times, the pressure to keep up has become inevitable. Somehow, we feel we are not doing enough for our child if we do not participate in this rat race.
If a child is winning accolades in sport, I might worry that my child doesn’t show any interest in the rough and tumble. If my child tells me that her classmate visited Singapore for vacations, I am discomfited by the fact that we could afford just the trip to Goa.
I don’t like it when my neighbour proudly proclaims about how her 10-year-old “never gives trouble at the dinner table- she eats all vegetables,” my child being a fussy eater. My brother buys the latest in interactive programmes, that promises to ”teach his 4 year old the basics in simple math” so that his math skills will not lag behind his classmates. Never mind that the same will be achieved at school in due course.
A friend keeps borrowing my daughter’s books from me – books that her daughter is not really interested in – as she is convinced they are the secret to my child’s proficiency in languages.
I feel as if I am depriving my child of opportunities if I don’t send her to all the extra-curricular classes that her friend’s mother is sending her to, even if my child may have problems coping with them all.
1. YOU are your child’s parent: What do I want for my child? What are my long-term dreams for her – never mind the neighbour’s plans for her child.
2. You cannot please all people at all times: It is not always possible or advisable to do as the world does or expects you to do. There is the fable of the man and his son who lost their donkey as a result of trying to do what the people on the road thought they should do. I can be a good parent, without pushing myself to be the perfect parent.
3. Know your child: Every child is unique in likes and dislikes, temperament, talents and abilities. Do I think she will sustain her interest in the things I want her to do? Do I think she has the stamina to do all that? The parent is the best judge of what will or will not work, especially in very young children.
4. Parent proactively: Why do I do something as a parent? Is it because my child wants me to do it? Do I think my child will benefit from it? Does my child want to do it? Is it because other parents are doing it and I know that it will make me seem a “cool” parent in my child’s and my peer group’s eyes? Am I being true to my beliefs while setting rules or doing something for my child, or am I being affected by what my peers (who are often an important support group while parenting) think or do?
5. Celebrity and yummy mummies: These are often the parenting equivalents of photo-shop airbrushing. Most of what we know of their parenting styles might have more to do with the front they want to present to the world, rather than reality. They are human beings, as prone to parenting gaffes as the rest of us, and it would be foolish of me to emulate them blindly. In terms of bare economics too, what works for them might not work for me.
6. Get a Life: “An empty mind is the devil’s workshop.” Have a career, hobby, or volunteer. Do something or learn something that interests you. I am less likely to be stressed by parenting peer pressure if my mind is constructively occupied.
7. Be practical: Can I really afford that expensive equipment or vacation? Is it necessary for me to get my child that latest gadget that the neighbour’s son may be flaunting? Do I really believe that my daughter needs to have that Xbox that her classmate’s parents got for her when it would be healthier and more age-appropriate for her to go out and play?
8. Value yourself: Reflect – do I honestly feel that doing things just because some other parent does them, getting unnecessary things makes my child happier? My child would rather have me spend time with her, and loves me as I am.
9. Choose your peer group: Sharing parenting concerns with a support group I trust is less likely to cause me to compare my parenting unfavourably with someone else’s. I have someone like-minded to discuss things with, and get help from if I find myself stressed by unrealistic parenting expectations.
10. Stand your ground: Marketing strategies would have you believe that your child would suffer if you do not give him that wonder drink. Educate yourself on the pros and cons instead of falling for the pressure. Think – would it really make a difference?
Competitiveness among Indian moms is here to stay. A little awareness coupled with a little common sense will go a long way in dealing with this peer pressure.
*Photo credit: rishibando (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
In her role as the Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba
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