Adopting Ethics within a World of Peer Pressure
AEU Religious Education Committee Chair
Last September, when the school year was just beginning, I was driving my 4-year-old daughter Jessie to nursery school. Chatting in the car, we started talking about one of her dolls. I couldn't believe what I heard her say. She said that she used to like the doll, but she doesn't anymore because her friend said the doll was ugly. Enter peer pressure.
Jessie is such a sweet and thoughtful little girl. Her feelings about her doll really affected me. She had taken her friend's opinion and let it shape her own feelings.
My husband Nick and I have simple but firm expectations of our kids. We expect them to show respect and to try their best, listen to their conscience, and to defend their beliefs -- even if that means standing up to others, even (and sometimes especially) their friends. We don't expect our kids to avoid peer pressure, but we do hope for them to be strong enough to avoid falling victim to it.
Most of the parents I know have fairly similar goals. We want our children to be respectful of other people and the environment, and also respectful of themselves. We want them to think critically about their choices and the consequences of their decisions. And we want them to be knowledgeable about the world around them, to experience compassion for those less fortunate, and to feel empowered to make a difference when they see an injustice or simply an opportunity.
I embrace the independence that my 7- and 4-year-old children have developed. I enjoy the fact that they can entertain themselves, or play in the yard without my constant supervision. Still, conversations like the one I had with Jessie remind me that my children are ever evolving their perspectives and opinions, and I need to be attentive to guide that development. I sometimes tune out their comments or feel pressured by their (seemingly constant) "Hey, Mom". Yet I'm keenly aware that, before too long, they won't have that desire to tell me about every little thing. So, my main summer project isn't to focus on letting them explore and expand their independence. My commitment is to spend more time with them, create as many memories as possible, and soak up as many "Hey, Mom!" observations as I can.