Since when the twins were toddlers they loved to play with the kitchen set. They spent hours filling tiny pots and pans with imaginary cakes and tea. When my son was about three he said to me, “Mama can you get me a kitchen set that isn’t pink?” I hadn’t even noticed the colour of their kitchen set. Anyway I scouted around and got one in steel for him.
Another few years later he said, “I won’t take my kitchen set down to play. I’ll play with it only at home.”
That made me stop in my tracks.
“Why,” I asked? “What happened?”
“Nothing,” said he. “I don’t like to play with it when I’m down.”
I left it at that.
I shouldn’t have, because that, right there was peer pressure raising its ugly stubborn head and my son was barely five.
He still enjoys pottering around in the kitchen (The other day I heard him talking to the new OTG, ‘welcoming’ it to the family. Yeah he does things like that). I do love to have him in the kitchen but I wonder if a day will come when he is too embarrassed to do that. I’d miss him. What’s sadder however is that he would be giving up something he loves for fear of being made fun of. That would be tragic indeed. This whole peer pressure thing needs to be nipped in the bud and it needs to be done now since the tweens is the time it’s at its fiercest.
It strikes early these days. Is it my imagination or is everything just happening faster for this generation?
Anyway, clearly, as a mom, as a parent I need to up my game.
Here’s what I’m doing:
1. Set the ground:
The first thing to do is to talk to the kids about it. I talk about how children come from different backgrounds, think differently, have different rules and deadlines. I tell my son about my own childhood. How we weren’t allowed to go to every party, how we didn’t like it and yet why it was necessary, how the coolest boys and girls aren’t always the best. We talk, a lot.
2. Blame it on mom:
The twins have full liberty to use the phrase ‘Mama doesn’t allow’. I am happy being the bad guy here. I see my son using it to his advantage.
3. Relax, rework, review the rules:
Just when I was beginning to feel smug about having provided this solid ‘me’ shield my son came up with, “It’s embarrassing to always have to say ‘my mom doesn’t allow’. You don’t allow me to cross the road on my own, go for an ice cream, cycle down the steps.” Sigh! Yes well I don’t, I don’t allow all of that. I do also understand how quoting ‘mama’ all the time may not be the coolest thing in a tween’s life. Maybe then, it’s time to review the don’ts. I would still freak at the idea of him cycling down the steps but I might allow the once-in-a-while ice cream with friends. And that brings me to the next thought…
4. Encourage your child to play with same age kids
The don’ts become easier to follow if most children in the group are following them. Unfortunately when you live in a gated society, like we do, younger and older kids often end up playing together and that complicates things. Older kids have a different, more relaxed set of rules. They have a different vocabulary and different (slightly grown up) jokes. They talk of branded clothes and cell-phones and movies – talk which may be fine for a teen but not for a 10 year old. The trouble is I cannot choose his friends any longer. What we can do then is to give the kids better (from our point of view) and more fun (from his) alternatives and hope they choose them. I resorted to enrolling my son for football with a bunch of same age kids. You could try that or you could organize play dates with his school mates.
5. Get to know his friends
Play dates come with the added advantage of letting you know his friends. How does that help? Well you get to see the good and the bad side of his buddies and that makes them little people for you, like your son, instead of ‘just an influence’. Once you strike a rapport with his friends and your son sees that you don’t dislike them but simply disagree on certain issues it makes it easier for him to stick by your rules.
I have to add here that peer pressure can work both ways. On the positive side it might encourage your child to begin to read, or take to outdoor sports or take up a cause. However it’s the negative one I am watching out for. I cannot let something as silly as peer pressure deprive the world of a master chef. That would indeed be criminal.
Tulika is a journalist turned stay-at-home-mum to twins. Freelancer, writer, book lover, fitness junkie, amateur photographer and DIYer. Wannabe cook and gardener. Amidst all of that she finds time to run a fun weekly Book Club for kids. If she had one wish she’d ask for 50 hours in a day. At least. Join her on her parenting journey at www.obsessivemom.blogspot.com or find her sharing her book love atwww.beataboutthebook.wordpress.com.