Parental Peer Pressure: A Game I Cannot Win

By Joslyn Gray, REDBOOK

While my kids are certainly subject to more challenging peer pressure than I am, I've realized there is also a certain insidious peer pressure among parents. It is a game I cannot win.

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Depending on whom I'm talking to, I'm either too liberal with my kids or too strict. If I allow my children to have three cookies a day, I'm too indulgent; but if I limit their sugar consumption, I'm giving them eating disorders. I'm uptight because I don't let my 10-year-olds watch Glee; I'm letting their brains rot because I let them watch SpongeBob. I'm a helicopter parent because I don't let my kids play on the playground by themselves, but I'm also a slacker because I do let them walk to school on their own.

I cannot win. I have ceased trying to. I do not have the energy to defend my parenting choices-I'm too busy and too exhausted.

Every mom and dad brings something different to the parenting game. We bring with us the challenges of our own childhoods, the lessons (good and bad) from our parents, our insecurities, and our most strongly-held views.

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In general, it's easiest when we just hang out with families that share the same ideas about how to raise kids. While every family has different rules, my kids understand that they are expected to follow the rules in their friends' houses.

"Different things drive different moms nuts," I explained to my kids a long time ago, when they discovered that one of their friends was allowed to play with Bratz dolls. "Bratz dolls drive me nuts, so we don't have them. But jumping in the house drives Katie's mom nuts, so even though you can do that in our house, you can't do that there." The same expectations of kindness, respect and responsibilities hold true at Katie's house and at our house. However, when the rules are vastly different, it's harder to make it work.

A friend of mine lets her elementary-school-aged daughter watch R-rated horror flicks, swear in the house, and skirt the rules on our school's uniform dress code. Her "first day of school" picture for fifth grade shows her flipping the camera the bird. The thing is, it works for their family. Her daughter is bright, gets good grades, does not get into trouble at school, and is the first one to stick up for bullied kids. The key here is that my friend and I have discussed our differences. Her way would never work for our family; for one thing, I have two kids with autism that have enough difficulty with pragmatic language without teaching them when it's okay to swear, and when it's not. But it does work for her family, and her kids are awesome.

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It's harder to make those friendships work, but it's worth it. When REDBOOK launched the mom blog council, we kicked it off with No Judgment Day. The truth is, not judging other people's parenting is easier said than done. I do my best to avoid judging or pressuring other parents, and I also no longer going to justify my own methods to random parents on the playground.

When questioned, I will have just one answer: "It's what works for us."

Joslyn Gray is the author of the humor blog stark. raving. mad. mommy. She writes about parenting four fabulous, hilarious kids with a quirky mix of autism, ADHD, and anxiety.

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