Something dawned on me this last week after receiving a sweet text from my friend, Amy. She was thanking me for the camp her son Jack attended. (He’s a friend of Brody’s from preschool and when they see each other, no matter how long it’s been, they don’t miss a beat.) So, it’s been neat that the past 2 years, a couple of his preschool friends gather at a camp I lead.
The ‘Discover Your Inner Genius’ is a camp fostering the well-rounded child. The concept is my friend’s, Jay Apking’s, founder of the Great American Child (check it out!). So, during the week-long camp, we are focusing on improving our weaknesses and continuing to grow our individual strengths. We make goals after a type of personality assessment is given, and all week we focus on striving to improve and make good choices. Two of the many topics we touch upon is nutrition and chores.
So, I loved and appreciated hearing that Jack had been wanting to eat healthy and help out more around the house last week. Mom put in her text that she ‘hopes it lasts’! I loved that my own son was recognizing and wanting to eat ‘Go’ foods instead of his usual ‘whoa’ foods! With all the talk and positive reinforcement the kids were receiving from all the good choices they were making (even earning tickets throughout the week for good actions and learning new information), they were all pressuring each other to be better. By Thursday, I was in awe of the quality of food the children were bringing for lunch, all of them. Some made it themselves and others asked their parents to buy wheat instead of white or not get the Lunchables. And, the food was only one example.
There is such power in peer pressure, good and bad. Of course, we’d all rather see the positive peer pressure! And, it works. If we set an expectation and tone of positive choices, then it spreads. There is power in influence. Instead of bragging of all the ‘bad’ or cool things you do (which I have certainly seen and heard at school) and kids are talking about all the good things they do, then the whole climate is shifted.
The adult sets the tone by giving firm and positive expectations and leading by example. But, it also has to have buy-in from the kids so that the chain of influence and peer pressure spreads in a positive way. If you’re the only kid who doesn’t exercise and everyone is talking about what they like to do, then you’ll feel compelled to start moving too. And if everyone is talking about their favorite book and enjoying reading, then you too will think it’s cool to read. It’s really that simple.
Furthermore, if you expect and treat a child like they’re ‘bad’ because they make bad choices, then the child continues to act like and expect to be a bad kid. It’s tricky to not treat students who act out as if they are not equal or as nice as others; it takes intentional extra work by a caring adult. But, I’ve seen it happen. If most people around you are acting positive and the expectation is that everyone has potential, then individuals can rise to the occasion. And we have to provide opportunities for the child to shine and show off a little.It’s fighting what kids hear at home, sometimes, that’s the biggest battle. Every child needs to have one adult, and preferably a parent, who believes and cares that they are a good kid. (If it were only that simple!)….
So if we do our jobs as parents to expect respectful, responsible, and caring actions from our kids and our kids are around friends with the same expectations, then we are keeping each other in check! An environment where kids are positively influencing each other is so powerful. Then when our children do experience children with different or lower expectations, it will be embedded in them that it feels much better to make good choices than bad. Maybe our children can be the ones to positively influence others! Making our expectations clear, healthy, and positive really can have a chain reaction!