When we talk about peer pressure, we are often talking about teenagers. But the reality is that all of us face peer pressure no matter what season of life we are in.
I remember when it slammed me right in the face. Our five kids were late elementary age and moving into the teen years. My home was not the house; it was my car. I felt like I spent more time driving kids places than I did at home.
One evening I sat at a basketball game with two other moms. As the evening progressed, one mom began to look at her watch nervously.
“I hope this game is over soon,” she remarked. “My daughter has the lead in the school musical and she’s going to be late to practice. And she’s got to make phone calls because she’s heading up the fundraiser for her youth group.”
The other mother joined in, “I know just how you feel. My daughter is on the traveling team and she has another practice after this game, and she’s also in the band and she has so much homework in her accelerated classes. It is so stressful.”
Oh my, I thought as we left the gym. These mothers are better mothers than I am because their kids are involved in more worthwhile activities than mine are. I need to go home and sign my kids up for more stuff. And then it hit me. I was falling prey to parental peer pressure—pressure that says that whoever has the child who is the most involved is the best parent. Pressure that was making me feel like a lousy mother.
But wait a minute.
One of our jobs as parents is to take the long-range view. Do we want to sign our child up for one more activity to collect one more trophy that 10 years from now will be collecting dust on the closet shelf? Or do we want to say “no” to yet another activity and choose instead to have dinner several nights a week as a family in order to nurture family friendships? In the long-term, which will matter more—a family who is genuinely friends with each other because of time spent together, or a collection of old, discarded trophies?
You will not be a popular parent when you say “no.” Your kids will complain. But you are not running for most popular parent. You are trying to build a family of friends. It is often your job to say “no.”
One of the greatest challenges to parents today is the pressure to build our children’s resumes. There are so many good options pulling on our time and on our child’s schedule: that extra sports clinic to give our child the edge, the additional class, the exposure to music and art, the “right” school—even pre-school. It is easy to overbook children “for their own good” when too often it is so we will feel good about our parenting.
Children today are stressed. So are parents. I suspect that one reason for the stress is we are overbooked. Kids need time to create their own play—to get dirty in the yard, to organize a neighborhood game, to curl up with a book, make a mess in the kitchen, to entertain themselves. And yes, to get bored! Boredom can lead to creativity. Wouldn’t you like a few minutes to be bored?
It is a wise parent who will step back and ask these questions:
- Am I being driven by adult peer pressure to sign my child up for this activity?
- Given the ages and numbers of our children and this season in our family life, how many extra activities are healthy for our family?
- Are we running ourselves ragged and stressing our kids out as we drive from one event to the next?
- When will we have regular time to nurture family relationships? (Vacations help but they are not real life, and genuine relationships are best nurtured in the daily nitty gritty of living together.)
- God, please give us wisdom to know what is right for us and for each of our kids at this time.
Editor’s note: Check out Susan’s site every Wednesday for a blog post and sign up to receive “One word,” a twice-a-week e-mail on one character trait of God. FB: @susanalexanderyates T: @susanayates P: @susan2187