How to Deal with Peer Pressure from Other Parents
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 11 Nov
Slamming our car’s door, my daughter slumped down into the passenger seat.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Why did you have to come pick me up, Mom?” she exclaimed. “Mallory got to stay!”
“We’ve been over this before,” I replied, trying to stay calm, but alarmed at my young teen daughter’s rising voice. “You have an orthodontist appointment early tomorrow morning, so you need rest, which you won’t be able to get at a sleepover. Plus, I’ve never even met Katrina’s parents. You know you can’t stay over at someone’s house unless I know their parents. It’s for your own protection.”
“Protection!” My daughter spat out the word like used chewing gum. “You’re not helping me; you’re hurting me! Katrina’s mom told me you must be really weird to have such weird rules. She says she feels sorry for me for having an overprotective mom like you.”
“What?!” I tried to keep my shaking hands steady on the steering wheel.
“Katrina’s mom said you’re weird,” my daughter screamed, “and Mallory’s mom has said that before, too!”
“Why? Just because I’ve got rules that they don’t have? I don’t understand why they …”
My daughter shot me an icy glare. “I didn’t expect you to understand, Mom. They said you’re out of it, and now I know you are, because you won’t let me spend the night like they said you should.”
Reflecting on my daughter’s words later that night, I couldn’t sleep. It felt like I was in middle school, not her. The sting of the comments the two other moms had made felt like the sting I’d felt from “mean girls” in middle school years ago when I wouldn’t do something they’d wanted me to do. Then it hit me: this was peer pressure!
Usually, we parents are concerned about the peer pressure that our children face from other kids. But we have to contend with parental peer pressure, too. Sometimes other parents will pressure us to make decisions that aren’t right for our own families. Even when they believe in Christ, like the two moms who pressured me, they can focus so much on their own desires that they lose respect for our points of view and end up sinning against us.
When that happens, we need to stand up for our convictions as we navigate the many issues about which other parents may disagree with us. These statements reveal some common parental peer pressure issues:
- “Why can’t I have a Facebook page yet? Everyone but me uses social media to connect, and her parents said they didn’t understand why I couldn’t find the party invitation on Facebook!”
- “But he gets to stay up much later than that, even on school nights! His parents think it’s weird that you make me go to bed by 8 p.m.”
- “Her parents said they’re sorry I had to miss out on seeing that movie because you wouldn’t let me go when they called to invite me.”
- “His parents said there’s nothing wrong with missing church occasionally to go to a game on Sundays. They think you’re mean for making me go to church every single week!”
- “Nobody but us still eats family dinners together on weeknights! Her parents want to know why you can’t be more flexible.”
- “Their parents let them date (or drive) already, and they think you’re ruining my social life by making me wait longer!”
Here are some ways you can fight parental peer pressure:
Don’t give in to negativity. Adding negative words of your own on top of the other parents’ negative words will only increase the negativity in the situation. Keep Ephesians 4:29 in mind: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ask God to help you remain calm and respond in a positive way.
Talk with your kids about it. When other parents question your family’s rules, it’s a good time to explain the values and reasons behind your rules to your kids. Discuss why it’s important for your family to have the rules you have, but be careful not to judge or condemn other families in your conversation. Encourage your kids to express their own thoughts and feelings about your family’s rules in respectful ways, so they can work through the issues involved. A 2011 research study conducted by psychologists at the University of Virginia (“Predictors of Susceptibility to Peer Influence Regarding Substance Use in Adolescence”) showed that teens with parents who encourage them to express their own views in family discussions about tough issues are less likely to give in to peer pressure than other teens because they’ve processed the issues well in their own minds. Help your kids understand that you have good reasons behind your rules, and that you want what’s best for them because you love them.
Talk with the other parents about it. Don’t ignore pressuring remarks from other parents; instead, contact them to talk about the specific comments you’ve heard they’ve made. Yes, it’ll be uncomfortable, but keep in mind that wounds that are neglected only get worse, while wounds that are attended to can begin to heal. Ask them to clarify what they really said, and explain why they said it. Calmly let them know that you value your relationship with them enough to care about trying to solve this problem, and ask them to respect your family’s perspective on the issue going forward.
Evaluate whether or not you can rebuild trust. If you observe that the parents who had previously pressured you and made negative comments about you to your children are truly changing their ways and now showing respect to your family, you can continue your friendships with them.
Break off unhealthy relationships when necessary. If, however, some parents refuse to respect your family’s rules and boundaries, or continue to poison your relationships with your kids, they’re not true friends. Since trust is the foundation of every relationship, you must be able to trust other parents to have healthy relationships with them. No trust means that it’s time to end the relationship between yourself and the other parents. Break off contact to prevent the other parents from hurting your family anymore, but be sure to follow God’s command to forgive them, and trust God to help you heal and learn from the experience.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: November 6, 2012