Recently my God son came to visit us. He is a teenager with a great love love for shoes and fashion in general. On what was supposed to be a five-day trip but was cut short to three days, the boy brought at least five pairs of shoes. The day after he arrived he cut a dashing figure in his big fashionable sunglasses , a tuxedo suit and what I would describe as interesting shoes, for a wedding he was attending with his mom.
I didn’t’ think much about it except to be impressed and proud that the little boy I once held in my hands as a baby has grown to be on the verge of adulthood causing us who love him to swell with a sense of pride about his many achievements so far which, much to his single mother’s credit range from good behaviour to good grades to medals in athletics and sports in general.
But after the teenager had left, my older boy who has only four pairs of shoes to his name came to me with tears welling up in his eyes, wanting to know why he had so few a number of shoes while the other guy had so many. What do I tell him? Do I say he doesn’t need so many shoes? Or do I say we do not have enough money to buy him as many shoes as he would love to have or do I simply tell him to run along and forget about shoes?
As I paused to think about the right answer to give to the little boy in distress over shoes, it dawned on me that children experience social pressure almost every time they interact with other people! Such social pressure I am afraid can come from ignorant adults who harshly criticize and challenge children unawares, like for example someone who sneers at how fat a child is to the child’s face. The pressure could also come from physical pressure from bullies or siblings, expectation pressure from teachers or parents and of course social-judgment pressure from peer groups or even adults.
At that critical moment, It occurred to me how much I would hate for my children to grow up thinking that life is about competition to see who dies with the most toys or to derive a sense of value from materialism.
I know some adults whose day can easily be spoilt by seeing somebody else driving a better car or living in a nicer house, so I took my child’s concerns seriously and therefore gave him a long well thought out but simple answer which, I pray to God that I will be able reinforce time and again until it becomes a reality in his life. My boy is competitive by nature , which in itself is not entirely a bad thing but then he has to learn that his happiness does not depend on being the best at everything.
So I told him that it did not matter that the other boy had more shoes than him because the two of them were not in competition. He shot back by suggesting that perhaps the other boy’s mom had more money than I did. I said it was possible that she did, but it did not matter either because I too was not in competition with the other parent. I further explained that maybe when he has grown up to become a teenager and his foot has stopped growing so fast, (before school holidays he was a size 10 and he’s already a size 11) we could spend a little bit more money on shoes since he would get to keep them a little longer. In the end we were cool!
From that day on as I became much more aware of the need to insulate my children from the negative affects of social pressure, so I purposed to consciously Identify risk factors by keeping my eyes and ears open in order to discover the types of social pressures that easily influence my children, to be protective and to communicate effectively and keep our relationship strong.