How to Overcome Parent Peer Pressure

Posted March 1, 2021

We tend to think of peer pressure as an issue facing teenagers, but adults — especially parents — are susceptible to peer pressure, too. If you’ve ever received unsolicited advice or a judgmental side-eye, you know how irritating — even hurtful — peer pressure can be.

What is adult peer pressure? Simply put, it’s when others push you to conform to a behavior or belief system that’s different from yours. Don’t want your children watching PG-13 movies, but other parents tell you it’s not a big deal? This can make you wonder if you should change your stance. That’s adult peer pressure. And it can often lead to harmful comparing of one child to another, or of one family’s choices to another’s.

For parents, peer pressure shows up in many ways — comparing our children’s grades, athleticism, awards and achievements, college admissions or choice of future career to those of other kids, for instance. Naturally, we want to see our children be happy and do well. It’s normal to feel pride in seeing them come into their own, and to recognize that our children’s success can shape how others think of us as parents. But when we hold our children up against someone else’s measuring stick, it’s not healthy or helpful.

For example, some parents may feel that their children need to attend certain schools, major in certain subjects or work in certain career fields as adults for them to be successful. Likewise, many of us slip into feeling that we’ve failed as parents in some way if our children don’t perform in the same way as someone else’s kids do. Instead of focusing on external measures, focus on internal measures like whether your kids are flourishing and are happy in the schools, programs or interests of their choosing.

If pressure to measure up to someone else’s yardstick is negatively affecting you or your kids, here are some tips and resources to help you address it:

Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life. True success comes in a lot of different packages. Knowing that can be half the battle. So, no matter what success looks like in your family, celebrate what makes each member special. Embrace each other’s path and cheer your loved ones on along the way!