Usually peer pressure is associated with children, teenagers, and in areas of academics and profession. But it is never acknowledged in other roles that adults take up, such as parenting. But if we observe closely, we notice that a significant part of parental behavior is dictated by their peers and programmed beliefs about how a parent ought to behave.
In these cases, the peers include neighbors, relatives, and friends with children. Even parents of the parents become peers. As always peer pressure, even more so in parenting, too is an unacknowledged but undeniable powerful force that influence that often leads to adverse effects than any benefits.
Peer pressure in parenting leads each parent to imitate a peer of theirs, mislead by the assumption that such behavior is idealistic and is best for the child. But unfortunately, what’s best for one child is need not be so for another.
The pressure felt by parents is often shown on the children with adverse effects on them. Severe restrictions and impossible goals are laid upon the child, all under the guise of ensuring the child’s future when it is actually peer pressure for the parent. And any failure on the part of the child to comply with the rules and goals are met with punishment measures ranging from mild to severe. More the pressure a parent lets in from peers the more severe the restrictions or punishments for the child.
Parents begin to compare their child with other children, thus effectively creating peer pressure for the child. A child’s performance at school, sports, arts, or even casual play becomes the parent’s measure of success in parenting and thus a personal connection between the child’s so called successes and parent’s identity is established. The child becomes an object and an instrument through which a parent can establish his/her identity and success amidst peers.
In cases where the parents of parents become the peers it is often in a context of dissociation from the peer group, meaning the parents do not want to raise their children as their parents raised them. This, in view of the parents and other peers, is seen as a positive behavior. Unfortunately it is not so. This viewpoint again places the need of the parent to prove to be a better parent over the actual needs of the child. It also presupposes that since the parent’s upbringing was bad the opposite behavior is good.
I have had cases where peer pressure has led the parents to discriminate their children on even their physical appearance. Parents scolding or even physically assault their children for their weight issues, and their sicknesses.
Abuse of the child is common, especially in countries like India. The parent specifically requesting the teachers to punish their child to make her/him perform is even sometimes seen as a desirable parenting trait than a deplorable reality.
Of course every parent wants the best for their child, but the problem lies in blindly accepting the established norms or choices of peers is the best for their child.
On the other extreme, parents who have become the model peers succumb to the pressure of maintaining that social image and, as a result, cause suffering to themselves and their children.
Peer pressure makes it easy for a parent to fall prey to manipulation by others. For instance it is easy to lead such parents to believe certain lifestyles, products, and services are better for their child’s welfare. The best example in this context is micro-chipping of school uniforms – a proposal, and a reality in some schools, in countries like the US, Brazil, and the UK. A local example would be the marketing of certain food products for children which promise a ready performance improvement in the child’s performance when their products are consumed.
Peer pressure in parenting can only be changed when its presence is first acknowledged by the parent and then realizing that it only exerts an adverse influence on the parent and the child. Peer pressure is not about pressure from outside. It always occurs when adults compare themselves to their peers due to some existing feeling of lack within or out of fear of failure.
In a significant amount of cases where parents bring their children to hypnotherapy, the child’s problem is born out of parental pressure. I have also had cases where the child has absolutely no issues, but the parent is coercing the child into behaving the way the parent wants. In these cases, the parents are not even willing to listen to the fact the problem lies with them rather than with their children.