Peer Pressure... How Early Does This Crap Begin?
Students in my YA lit class consistently rate peer pressure as one of the most insidious problems of teen students, and I find that disturbing. But when does peer pressure begin?
The picture above, is it the cutest child in the world? Why yes, it's my daughter Noel. Who inexplicably decided to get her ears pierced this week. (see red ears in picture).
She is five and has very stubborn ideas and opinions. Once she makes up her mind, don't try to change it...but somebody is changing it.
Let's start with her hair. Last year about this time, I cut off all my hair, very short. Noel was very upset, to the point of crying and saying I wasn't her mommy. (which made me cry). Anyway, though she has very thin hair, over the last year she refused to let us cut it. Since my husband gets the kids ready for school in the morning, we really wanted to push the cute shorter hair, but no, she insisted, she cried, she refused. A few weeks ago the girl next door got a shorter hair cut. When I took Ezra to get his hair cut I told Noel I wanted to get hers trimmed, I was in mid sentence going, "it will make your hair healthier, it won't look any different, we'll just cut the very ends off," When she suddenly decided she wanted to get her hair not just trimmed, but cut!
All that begging, bribery, logic, all the crying when I brushed her hair (the child has the most sensitive head in the world), did nothing, but the girl next door...yeah, sign her up for a hair cut.
And about the earrings...I have a pretty impressive jewelry collection, and she's asked me about the holes in my ears before, and I always told her that we'd have them pierced when she wanted to. Out of nowhere, last week she wanted to go immediately. I know there had to be a catalyst, and I know it wasn't some little-kid-pusher going "get your ears pierced or we won't be friends any more..." though I did have one of those in my class way back when..."wear jelly shoes or I won't be your friend anymore... you can't be in our club..." oh, the nightmares.
So, the thing is, this is my child who I would expect to be less influenced by others because of her natural stubbornness. My other one loves to make people happy, and that worries me a little.
As parents, our biggest concern is how do we instill our kids with enough self esteem that they don't make mistakes because of peer pressure. Making mistakes because of your own curiosity or desires are bad enough... but somehow less reprehensible when you look back on said mistakes (not that I made any, Hi mom!) than making mistakes because someone else wanted you to do something and you just gave in.
But how do you get kids to have that self esteem? I don't even know! We're obviously they coolest parents EVER and our 5 year old doesn't even listen to us...how do parents of teens cope with all this?
I plan to spend this summer going to Chuck E Cheese and the zoo and pretending that the teenage years will never arrive...even if they might be good for my own writerly research. It's okay, I can just use my imagination! I don't need angst in my own house!