We all want our children to become well-adjusted, confident and independent people and to develop their own unique character, but where should we draw the line when it comes to encouraging them to be ‘different’ than their peers?
Children from a very young age place great importance on ‘fitting in’ or following trends and what one child likes, another will like, too.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
As parents we are all guilty to some degree of fanning the flames of this trend-following. Who among us hasn’t bought the Wiggles cheese or the Dora yoghurt because we know our kids will eat it (even though it’s the same recipe as the regular-packaged one?)
Whether we realise it or not, we are often guilty of fuelling our child’s desire to follow the crowd because it’s easy or because it keeps the peace. Is it a bad thing or a good thing – and where should we draw the line?
Teaching our children to have a mind of their own and to make informed choices can help to develop their character but can also alienate them from other children if taken too far. We all remember that ‘weird’ kid in school who was considered different than the rest, who didn’t like the same things we liked and who was often avoided for that reason.
Image courtesy of flickr.com
So what can we do about it?
- Give our children choices – not so many that they end up confused and unsure, but enough so that they can see that there are alternatives.
- Explain the concept of advertising and marketing to them as soon as they are able to comprehend it. Help them to understand how companies entice you to buy.
- Allow them a certain amount of ‘character’ merchandise. This can be negotiated (i.e. ‘you can have the Dorothy schoolbag or the lunchbox but not both.’)
- Teach them by example. Play a variety of music styles in the car, barrack for more than one sports team or let them see you trying different foods/styles/décor ideas.
- Encourage the virtue of tolerance. Teach them to embrace those that are a little different.
- Most importantly, celebrate their own differences and let them know they are loved and respected for their choices.