Be careful with "everyone's doing it!"
Raising children is an artisanal process, not mass production. Each child needs to be raised according to their own personality, virtues, defects, and way of learning. As parents, we must be aware of this, and understand that even some basic house rules can be flexible when it comes to raising children who are very different.
This educational philosophy can be difficult for our children to understand, because they’re immersed in a culture of equality. For them, it’s an injustice if some kids have permission to go out and others don’t, or some have access to things that others don’t. Especially during adolescence, children can feel like they’re part of a community in which all should have the same privileges.
That’s when they start to complain, saying, “All my friends are doing it!” or “My friend’s parents give her permission to go out,” or “Everyone at school has one!” Using these and similar arguments, they try to negotiate with their parents regarding rules that seem unjust to them.
Many parents fall into the temptation to give in because they feel uncertain about how to enforce discipline and what rules to follow, and they feel if they go with the majority there’s a smaller chance of messing up. Without realizing it, they’re putting the future of their children into the hands of an anonymous majority.
In these circumstances, it’s important to keep some things in mind:
- Often, “everyone is doing it” isn’t true. Sometimes, if we take the time to investigate, we’ll realize that this expression is just a figure of speech; there are many young people who are not, in fact, “doing it.”
- Even if it were true that “everyone is doing it,” whatever “it” is, there’s still nothing wrong with prohibiting our own children from doing it. Sometimes, we parents make the mistake of trying to raise our kids by following the herd. We become friends with the parents of our children’s friends, and we try to reach an agreement regarding certain permissions. Although this sounds great, it’s important to remember that our children are unique, and our family is, too. We shouldn’t feel pressured to do or not to do something just to conform with what other people are doing, even if those people usually think like we do and are very close to us. Let’s not let the argument that “everyone’s doing it” carry us along as well.
- Going against the flow is sometimes good for us. Our children need to learn this fact. Being different doesn’t make us inferior, and for adolescents, that can be hard to understand and accept. We have to cultivate our children’s healthy self-esteem and their pride in being authentic. The ability to say “no,” even when everyone else is saying “yes,” will make our children truly free. The only way that they can learn this freedom is by seeing that their parents are truly free when it comes to raising them, and that what matters to them isn’t what’s popular, but what’s right.
- Saying “no” can save our children. Sometimes, these discussions with our children can be about trivial things, but other times, without knowing it, we may be debating things that can risk our children’s very life or future. When the phrase “everyone is doing it” comes along, we have to be firm in our reply: “Maybe so, but you are not everyone, and I’m not everyone’s mother or father, just yours (and your siblings’). I want what’s best for you, and I know that yielding on this matter could hurt you.”
They might get angry at us, and that may be difficult for us. However, we need to remember that when it comes to raising our children, we often have to do the right thing, even though it hurts, because it’s what’s best for our children.
Let’s have the courage to raise our children as individuals, to take into consideration the uniqueness of each of our children and understand what’s good for them and what’s bad for them. Let’s have the valor to be different, to teach them that they will only be truly free when they do things without depending on what everyone else thinks.