Social Question

Gremlin's avatar

Is peer pressure, to some extent, facilitated by parents?

Asked by Gremlin (170points) December 16th, 2015

When young children dress themselves, the results are often colorful and rarely resemble current fashion. Kids want to leave the house in princess dresses, superman costumes or their one favorite pair of neon-green pants.

Parents usually intervene, with some variation of, “What will the neighbors think?”

Do you think this could be damaging to a child’s self-esteem? Are children (and people, in general) so perceptive of others’ opinions because they were taught to pay attention at an early age? Is teaching them to fit in necessary?

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12 Answers

Mimishu1995's avatar

Yes, we get our “keep up with the Joneses” attitude from our early age and from our parents. Children are told that they need to “try harder” because the other children are doing better than them. School and grade can be an example. The children get the attitude because their parents themselves are bound to the pressure.

But the attitude also comes from the children. The children have a need to fit in, to be accepted by friends, or just to feel less “inferior”. Just look at how a child petter for new clothes, new cool gadget… the attitude comes from both sides.

I think teaching children to fit in can have some benefit. It can help the child know they need other human and learn to socialize more. But we should limit the teaching to an extent, so that the child doesn’t learn to base everything they do on others.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Even more damaging to a child is a parent who shirks the authoritative role. Parents are not peers by definition. Among many other things, a parent is an authority in the household. A parent must assume the role of leader and protector; a position that must be continually earned and justified by experience, knowledge, compassion and acceptable social behaviour in reference to the culture within which the family exists. It is almost impossible, very difficult at best, to lead and protect from the position of a peer—especially in a crisis.

A parent’s primary duty is to keep the child alive and healthy and to give that child the tools required to continue on to a healthy and hopefully happy life after leaving the protection of the parent. I personally believe that healthy human parents have a universal instinct to provide a better life for their children than their own and when this is perceived as impossible, there is political turmoil.

Some parents are better at this than others. For kids, it’s the luck of the draw. Considering some of the things that have come to light in the past thirty years, I would think whether or not the parent allowed a child to leave the house dressed as a princess would be the least of societies worries.

canidmajor's avatar

If I could give @Espiritus_Corvus 10 GAs I would. Speaking as a parent (and as someone who has had many of these discussions with other parents) I can tell you it is usually not about “what will the neighbors think” and is about helping our children to function in the strictures of the society in which they live. Wear the princess dress, but not the pajamas with urine on them, that kind of thing.
Of course there are always parents that are more concerned about status and judgement (I was raised by such a mother) but, in my experience, most parents are driven by concern for the ongoing welfare of their children, not what the “Joneses” are doing.

thorninmud's avatar

The notion that it doesn’t matter what others think is a relatively new one in human culture. For almost all of our history (and probably well beyond) what others think has mattered very much. That comes with being a social animal. We have our outer signifiers that send messages to others about how we see ourselves fitting into the group. Even intentionally flaunting norms is a way of positioning oneself.

To take a position like that has social consequences. You may attract supporters who admire your individualism, but you will almost certainly encounter push-back because social norms tend to be enforced. So, while flaunting social norms can be a wonderful thing, it should be done with awareness that all of this means something in the context of social groups, whether we want it to or not.

Parents have a responsibility to clue their kids into this, otherwise, when they do encounter social push-back for their unconventional choices, they may not be prepared for it, and that can be devastating.

marinelife's avatar

Helping a child fit in to the culture is part of the parental role. Children who don’t fit in quickly have their rough edges rubbed off by their peers—not gently.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Foremost parents are the child’s parents not friend. If the parent knows the princess dress is not appropriate for school. (It is freezing out, or the dress will be a distraction in class, or the dress will be destroyed on the crowded bus, (or, “All the blood sweat and tears our sisters spent fighting for equality, and you want to go to class as a princess?!?!”) the parent must steer the child in the right direction. I know it is trendy now to be permissive and “Let them decide.” “Don’t instruct.” “Let them learn on their own.” etc. I call BS. That is a cop-out. The parents have 10x the life experience, and have a better understanding of the world than the child. Don’t waste that knowledge. Help the child.
“Brittney sweetie. You can wear the princess dress at home if your teacher says your participation in class has improved.”

As a side note. Why on earth are parents, mothers most likely, dressing their pre-school girls in knee high boots? It is not for the kids. No. The women are dressing their girls to show off to other women. Meanwhile the girls need teacher help in the bathroom because they can’t take them off alone. It is ridiculous.

zenvelo's avatar

Feeling a little intimidated because everyone here agrees on the role of parents in getting kids to conform.

canidmajor's avatar

@zenvelo: I don’t see these posts as “getting kids to conform” as much as preparing them for a certain type of social reality. We also teach our kids not to punch their annoying peers to make those annoying peers stop talking. Children are marvelously intelligent, and still manage to think for themselves, even within the context of maintaining a community.

marinelife's avatar

@zenvelo Nothing in what has been said is to urge kids to conform as much as it is to teach the bounds of social interaction. Kids can be encouraged to be themselves while still comporting themselves in society.

ibstubro's avatar

Consider, @zenvelo, @canidmajor‘s statement “Wear the princess dress, but not the pajamas with urine on them, that kind of thing.”

I think it defines the discussion best and makes @canidmajor sound like a parent most kids would envy.

Here2_4's avatar

I never did parenting the impress the neighbors way, but I think this question was about parents at large.
I see it a bunch, about all sorts of behaviors. How to dress, don’t cry, don’t be loud, Donna’s kid had a job when he was fifteen, only touch the tip of it.
I do, honestly, feel this gives a bad message. For one thing, kids get a sense that anything is okay, really, as long as they appear a certain way to others. “Be manic depressive, just look all put together in public”, “Eat in a closet, puke, put on make up and be beautiful for the world to see”, “Steal, kill, just don’t get caught”, that is the message they get.
I let my kids know that style is an individual thing. They can have it how they want it, but if it gets unusual, expect people to react.
When it comes down to anything dangerous, or wrong, I am, “You cannot go out in the snow wearing shorts and sandals. Parts of you will turn black and drop off.” Boom Consequence, not comparison judgment.

Buttonstc's avatar


Not every parent feels that conformity is of the utmost importance. This particularly comes into play when kids have a clear preference for gender-innappropriate clothing or behavior.

I’m pretty sure that the mom who wrote this book doesn’t send her son to school this way, but neither does she totally squash his deep seated desire.

There are numerous interviews with her on the web as well as articles. For those interested further, the name of the book she wrote is “My Princess Boy”.

Her thoughts on it all are pretty profound and pretty sensitive to the needs of her son.

Has anyone else here encountered this book?

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