Is there anything more frustrating than other kids’ parents? I mean, we are each others’ biggest support, but so often our biggest hurdle too. It makes my blood boil when other kids’ parents let them do really stupid things. Because then my kid wants to do them too.
I get that we all have different values and attitudes. I get that not everyone shares the same beliefs I do. I also get that my calling some parents’ decisions “stupid” is harsh and inflammatory. I’m totally on board with all of that. Nope, I’m not taking it back, because what I don’t get, at all, is how some peoples’ parenting choices lead to:
• Seven-year-olds with Instagram accounts
• Nine-year-olds staying up until past 11 playing Minecraft online
• 11-year-olds posting dick pics in primary school chat groups
• 13-year-olds roaming the streets at midnight on Saturday night
• 15-year-olds getting smashed at parties in people’s houses
Each of these examples have crossed my path in the past week via reader questions, a news report or a private email, but I could go on. There are countless examples out there of kids doing things they really shouldn’t be doing. Can we all just agree that? Can we?
Fear of FOMO
Some of these kids are in over their heads because of out-and-out parental neglect, but most are not. I would hazard a guess that caring too much is often the problem. I think these kids are doing what they’re doing because their parents share their FOMO. You might say they’ve got a fear of their kid’s fear of missing out.
Stop letting the herd mentality raise your kids. Great for immunisation, not so great for decision-making.
“But everyone else is doing it, I feel left out every. single. day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Mum, do you even know what that’s like? Sob!” This was my own daughter in Year 5 when I said no what felt like 365 days in a row to the app Music.ly, now known as Tik.Tok. (If you want to know why none of my kids to this day have the app Tik.Tok, read this.) She was heartbroken, but I held-fast.
‘Not only do I think you are too young for social media, but that app doesn’t support our values,” I would tell her. “It’s a hard no.”
In response to her pleas that I “don’t care about her” or that I wanted her to “have no friends”, I simply held my ground. “Some things, many things, are more important than being part of the gang,” I would remind her.
“Nothing is more important than that!” she would weep, looking at me like I was a total loser who understood nothing, nothing.
Read this one too: Mean online behaviour and what we can do about it
“Other kid’s parents” are raising “other parent’s kids”
I may be a big, fat loser, but I understand this: many things are more important than being part of a friendship group, but our kids don’t understand that yet. Which is why they rely on their parents to be their voice of reason. So be their voice of reason!
Please, parents, stop caving in when you really want to say no. Your instinctive ‘no’ is the right thing for you. Your change to a reluctant ‘oh, alright then’ is just an admittance that your kid is the one in charge around here. Don’t say ‘yes’, just because you’ve heard that “all the other kids’ parents said yes.” I guarantee you that the majority of the other kids’ parents also said no three times, until their own kid pulled the “all the other kids” line, too. Kids nag, it’s what they do.
Smug it up, kids, because the bottom line was: no one was jumping off the Harbour Bridge, not even Johnny.
Please stop letting the herd mentality raise your kids. Great for immunisation, not so great for decision-making. Remember when our own parents used to say to us, “If Johnny jumped off the Harbour Bridge, would you want to do that too?” and we’d defiantly answer, “Sounds like fun”. Smug it up, kids, because the bottom line was: no one was jumping off the Harbour Bridge, not even Johnny.
Most kids rely on us to give them an out when they are in over their heads.
It won’t solve the problem, but it will help
I’m not saying that standing up for ourselves against the onslaught of kid-FOMO is going to solve all our problems. Plenty of kids will defy their parents and go do all the things anyway. Plenty of kids are locked in permanent all-out war with the world, their parents included. Plenty of kids are living full-on double lives that their parent’s have no idea about. Two Instagram accounts, two emails, two completely different personalities.
This might help: 5 techniques I’m using to stop criticising my kids
There will also be parents who think it’s better to “know where my kid is” rather than risk having them go off and do it anyway. Fair enough, but whether you know your 13-year-old is out roaming the streets at midnight or you don’t, they are still out roaming the streets at midnight. Knowing what type of glass it is in advance doesn’t make the pieces any easier to pick up once dropped.
• Alcohol supplied by a parent will still get a kid drunk.
• Underage sex that happens with permission at home can still be non-consensual, can still get a girl pregnant, can still carry emotional and health risks.
• The internet and social media can be the same dark, lonely place with your parent sitting right there in the room.
• Drugs are just as illegal and just as wired to screw up your teen brain when your parents know you’re smoking them.
Education versus permission
We can educate our kids without giving them permission to do whatever they think all the other kids are doing. We can particularly educate them to stand up for themselves, see through false friendships and be true to their own values and beliefs.
So, please, parents, get in touch with what’s really going on in your kids’ lives. Stand strong, so they can stand strong. Help them grow to be the person who doesn’t want to fit into any group that doesn’t support their personal values. Be their voice of reason, until they are old enough to have developed their own.
‘Fess up – are you guilty of giving in to your kids way too much?