Not too many years ago the Associated Press ran a story that came out of Gavas, a town in eastern Turkey. According to the story, one sheep from a very large flock walked to the edge of a cliff and jumped to its death. A second sheep soon followed. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. The A.P. report read:
“Stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff.”
Incredibly, only 450 of the sheep died. The rest survived because their fall was cushioned by the bodies of the sheep that had jumped before them.
Here’s a typical parent-child conversation:
Jimmy: “Dad, can I take my skateboard and try a triple-spin-reverse off the front porch?”
Jimmy: “Why not? Tommy does it.”
Dad: “If Tommy jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?”
That comeback about jumping off a cliff really is the go-to line that parents use to keep a kid from caving in to peer pressure, isn’t it? It reminds me of the old “You’ll shoot your eye out” line from the movie A Christmas Story. Little Ralphie says, “That deadly phrase uttered many times by hundreds of mothers was not surmountable by any means known to kid-dom.”
Truth be told, though, parents have to warn their kids about jumping off cliffs because peer pressure is such a powerful force. In his book There’s A Sheep Born Every Second, David Kirkwood uses that A.P. story about those sheep and writes, “Imagine the peer pressure that last sheep must have felt. Surely 1,499 sheep can’t be wrong, can they?”
Since I’m currently raising a freshman and a 5th-grader myself, I feel that I can speak with some expertise on this subject. And apparently, if all the reports I’ve heard are true, there are some IDIOT parents running around out there. These parents lower the bar on standards, set bad precedents, create dangerous trends, and (in my humble opinion) should have their parenting licenses revoked.
So today’s post is a word of encouragement to all you parents who are still trying to hold the line. Keep up the good work. Don’t make the mistake of giving in to peer-pressure yourself, the pressure other parents put on you to let your kids: watch anything they want to watch, listen to anything they want to listen to, wear anything they want to wear, think anything they want to think, say anything they want to say, go anywhere they want to go, buy anything they want to buy, and do anything they want to do. Can 1,499 sheep be wrong? You’d better believe they can! And that’s why you can’t let your child be number 1,500.