Life is full of choices. As adults, we sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads, and deciding which path to take can be difficult sometimes. However, we have a lifetime of experience to help us make the right choices. As a parent, I have found watching my children struggle with peer pressure to be particularly tough. I know that I have raised them with a solid sense of right and wrong. They have a strong value system in place. Sometimes though, the pressure to “be cool” outweighs Moms ever present voice in the back of their minds. This is especially true with my teenagers.
In Disney’s Pocahontas, Grandmother Willow said, “Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one“.
Recently I had an intense discussion with my 15 year old son. He had mindlessly done something that really disappointed me. More importantly, he disappointed himself. When talking things over with my kids, nothing drives me crazier than hearing, “but everyone else does it, Mom”. I immediately respond with, “I’m not their Mom…I’m yours and I expect better from you.” I had to explain to my son that while I’ll always be proud of who he is, I wasn’t very proud of the choice he made at the time. There’s a big difference between those two things, and explaining that to him made for some very interesting dialog.
In the week that followed, I found myself thinking a lot about peer pressure. My oldest daughter struggled with it a lot, and I’m just now starting to see it come to the forefront with my oldest son. Teen years are challenging times, and they face so many tough choices about things that their friends are doing. Now is the time to teach them to think for themselves. Peer pressures isn’t something that just teens have to deal with, adults often face this on a daily basis as well. This is why helping them firmly establish the ability to stand up for what they believe is so important. When I see that my teens are struggling with choices and peer pressure, I sit down and explore the choices with them. I’ve found when I paint the picture from an outsiders perspective, it helps them to see clearly which is the right path to choose. Naturally, I hope that they will ultimately make their own choice to not want to do certain things.
When I was in 4th grade, I recall having to choose a poem to memorize. I picked Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, as the final sentence struck a deep chord with me:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Looking back through the years, I can think of countless times that I have taken the road less traveled by. No, it wasn’t always easy. In fact, the road was often bumpy with lots of twists and turns in it. Being able to live with my conscience has always been of utmost importance though. Lately, I often feel like a broken record as I try to get that point across to my teens. I’m not naive, I know peer pressure is difficult. It’s how they react to it, what road they choose, that ultimately will define who they are. So, as strong of an influence as peer pressure is…I resolve to be a stronger force to reckon with. I recently overheard my sons conversation with one of his classmates who was pressuring him, “No way, Dude…you don’t know my Mom.” I smiled as I walked away. I’ll proudly be “that Mom” for as long as I need to be. I hope I’ll soon be hearing, “No way, Dude…why would you want to do something like that?” It’s one of my deepest desires that my children will choose the “hard way” when necessary in life.