Letters to the Editor

Good parents let their kids be snobs | Letters

Do you know what peer pressure is? Of course, it’s when the other kids put pressure on your kid to take drugs and smoke cigarettes.

Well you are wrong.

Technically, peer pressure is any pressure put on your kid to do anything, not only to use drugs.

There is a field of psychology called “social psychology” that studies group behavior. Groups establish a norm of behavior and members of the group are expected to stay within that norm. If the norm is long hair, then everyone in the group is expected to have long hair. If the norm is tattoos, then everyone is expected to get a tattoo. If the norm is body piercing, then everyone is expected to wear a nose ring or lip ring or eyebrow ring.

But if the norm is to make bad grades in school, then everyone is expected to make bad grades. If the norm is to sass the teacher, then everyone is expected to sass the teacher. If the norm is to misbehave, then everyone is expected to misbehave.

There is a penalty for those who don’t follow the norm. It is called ostracism or rejection. When kids don’t follow the norm, they are rejected from the group. Since everyone wants to be accepted among their peers, then peer pressure takes the form of a threat of rejection if you don’t follow the norm like the rest of us.

“Like the rest of us” is the key phrase here. It works like this. We all follow the norm. If you don’t follow the norm like us, then you are saying that you think you are better than us in that you will not follow the norm like we do. So you think that you are something special, better than us. Who do you think you are that you think you are better than us?

This does not only happen to kids in school. This happens throughout your entire life. If you work in corporate America where everyone sucks up to the boss and you do not suck up to the boss, your peers think that you think you are better than they are — and you are ostracized. This is peer pressure, to behave like they do.

But let’s go back to the kids in school. Suppose your kid is smart and wants to study and make good grades. Unfortunately, that is not the norm in schools today. If your kid persists at this, he or she will be rejected from the group. In the field of social psychology, those who deviate from the norm are called deviants. Once recognized as a deviant, it is very hard to get back into the group once your kid is seen as a deviant.

So what can you do about this basic human behavior in group psychology?

When I was faced with this problem with my kid, who was very smart, I told him this: These kids who you think are your friends are trying to hold you back to their level. In a few years, you will be a success and none of them will have left the little town they live in. They will get a job at a gas station or McDonald’s and live their life poor, while you will go to college and make lots of money. While they drive a used car, you will drive a new car. While they rent an apartment, you will own a house. This is the way of the world.

When I took the test for naval officer candidate school, there was a question. It read: a) I am a snob, b) I am a slob.

I answered a) I am a snob. When I turned in my paper the officer giving the exam asked me “are you a snob or are you a slob?” and laughed.

I am a snob turned out to be the right answer.

So teach your kid to be a snob. Teach your kids to reject the group that is threatening to reject them for not following the norm. Teach your kid to be a snob. Explain to your kids that one day they will be rich and the other kids will be poor.

Then explain to them that peer pressure also exists in the halls of Congress so the government will take your money in taxes and give it to those who put peer pressure on you to be like them. Then tell them of this saying attributed to Mark Twain: “No man’s liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.”

If you can get them to understand this, then you are a good parent.

Bill Pirkle, Federal Way

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