Family Magazine

Peer Pressure Parenting - the Idea of Fitting Children into Socially Acceptable Boxes

By Suvenchow
I was chatting with a friend today about setting realistic expectations as parents, I thought I'd bring the discussion to the blog and touch on the subject on peer pressure parenting as well since they are actually very closely related to each other. 
Anyway, we were chatting about how uneasy it was as a parent to be, well, parents, because everything that we do, or don't do are usually judged by the society. You whack your kid? You're promoting youth violence that you see on the news so often. You don't believe in physical punishment and that they should do only as told? You're not instilling in your child who is the authority and they might just grow up to be a rebellious failure of a human being. Oh, you're a stay at home mom? Your kid will not learn the art of socialising and will stick to you like glue and become a social outcast. You're a working mom? Why do you even want to have children in the first place if you can't even find time to care for them? Well, the list goes on and on, and so does the judging. It's just a never ending story. 
So, what is a good parent? How do you define good parenting? According to the Parenting For Social Change website, a "good" parent according to society's standards require adults to use their greater institutional, societal, and even physical power to ensure children fit into the right box. *Note the sarcasm*
I remember when my Little Miss Not A Princess Bébé "threw a tantrum" at playschool because I was trying to get her out of the sand pit and into the room so she could have a go at the "educational toys". Upon hearing her cry, the montessori coordinator came out to see what the commotion is about. When she found out what was happening, this was what she told me, "Don't worry about forcing her to go inside. Just because all the other children are inside sitting down and playing doesn't mean she has to follow. If she wants to play in the sand pit, let her be. It's her way of telling you she needs more time outdoors. All children have different needs and different skills they want to master, at different time and age. Some like to sit down quietly, some like to go on the bars and prance around like monkeys. But everything they do, is a step towards building a skill for their future years. Look at her, she's balancing on the play gym. Do you know that by doing that, she's actually developing a side of her brain to enable her to do well in math next time? Keep up the good job letting her explore according to her own pace, mom." I was speechless. There I was, trying to fit my daughter into what I deem appropriate for her, when really, I should have been "listening" to what she was trying to tell me. 
You see, I live in an apartment so space is very limited. During rainy days, she would be stuck at home the whole day, with no place to run and unleash her energy. So it made perfect sense why during playschool, all she wanted to do was to stay outdoors. I was never attentive or observant enough to understand that. I just thought because ninety nine percent of the children are doing this, so I must try and get my daughter to do this. I was very intrigued to learn more about what the Montessori coordinator had to share. So I told her, "I was thinking maybe my daughter was different because she seem to like different things to other children." Her response was, "Everyone is different. Just because society says so doesn't mean it's right. Have you heard of what many parents refer to as the "terrible twos"? There are actually no such thing as terrible twos. It's because parents are trying to fit their children into boxes according to societal standards. The Montessori teaching views children as small adults. They have their own needs and preference. For example, your daughter is playing with her blocks, and you drag her away and force her to do something else. Naturally, you will be left with an unhappy child. And they're really not being naughty or difficult, they're trying to tell you that they have unfinished business to attend to and they want to be able to master it before they move on to the next 'job'. Kids at two years of age often don't have the complete vocabulary to express themselves, so they will tend to cry or, as some put it, "throw tantrums". But really, you just need to treat them as little adults, have realistic expectation of their capabilities, and try to understand what they're trying to tell you."
I bet none of you would have thought about the subject this way, which is one of the things I love about Montessori. They don't try to fit kids into boxes, and in contrast, allow children to explore the world according to their pace. Did you know that their classes are made up of children of different ages? It is so the children can learn about the same thing from different perspectives - their peers, teachers, older classmates and younger classmates. It's why Montessori is actually known as an alternative schooling system, because their beliefs and educational method is totally different from conventional schools. 
So back to peer pressure parenting. I also remember how so many times I get "advice" from people that I should parent my daughter this way and that way. But get this, she is my child, not yours, if I want advice from you, I will ask you. But even if I do ask you, it's for reference, it doesn't mean I am obliged to follow. I've been told not to offer my daughter the luxury of choices at such a young age, because she will grow up thinking that life is full of choices. Well, guess what, life IS full of choices, you just have to weigh the pros and cons of it and MAKE a decision. 
I've also been told because I'm not a big fan of strapping my daughter into a stroller, that I'm raising a child who has no concept of boundaries. I let her run freely when we're at the park, I also let her run freely near me when we're at the supermarket. Granted, there are times where I have no choice but to place her in the trolley because I need to pay at the counter or do something where I won't be able to monitor her. But most of the time, I let her roam next to me. I get people who judge me when she cries whenever I put her into the trolley, and tell me that I should just strap her in a stroller and let her cry in out a few times so that she will get use to it and that it will make my life easier not having to monitor her while shopping.  All those looks I get when my daughter cries, it's as if you're telling me a) I'm a bad parent for letting my child cry; b) I'm a bad parent because my child won't sit still quietly in her designated seat; c) I'm a bad parent for promoting noise pollution at a public place; d) I'm a bad parent because my child is misbehaving. Why does it feel as everything I do has to go through your judgment and approval? And no matter what I do, I will still get judged. 
It's because of this worldwide epidemic called Peer Pressure Parenting (yes, I invented this phrase, and if someone out there is using the same term, I apologize but I did not plagiarize). Many a times, we as parents are so insecure about how the society views us, that we succumb to fitting our children into boxes that are deem acceptable for society. It's like what George Carlin said, "Society wants obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And dumb enough to just passively accept it." This is exactly what we're doing to our kids. We want them to behave obediently, not run around, not touching things at the supermarket, not eating with their hands, vaccinating on time, go to school, not question the teachers, and be "dumb" enough to just passively accept everything they're told or expected to do. That's not raising human beings, that's raising robots. 
When are we going to learn how to parent with our hearts, instead of parenting with the expectation of your peers? It's your children, your choice. Successful people don't usually fit into what society deem as normal. Look at Steve Jobs, Genghis Kahn, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, etc. They didn't follow the herd, look what they've achieved? Much much more than what we "normal" human beings could ever achieve. 
Article inspired by: The Radical Notion that Children are People

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