Traverse City Record-Eagle

Evelyn Petersen: Ask Evelyn

February 4, 2012

Ask Evelyn: Everybody's doing it?

Q: My "tween" is always saying "Everybody does it" or "Everybody says it." I know this is an excuse to try to get her own way or get things she wants, but I'm really getting tired of hearing it. Where does this end? — Frustrated Mom

A: It ends only when you don't cave in to her pleas and you put a stop to it.

Think about that "everybody" excuse. Did you ever ask her for the numbers, as in exactly who or how many or which of her friends are doing this or saying this or wearing that?

Try talking to her about facts versus exaggeration. Then talk about how you hope she will be true to her own values and yours, and not just follow along after others like a sheep whenever a fad or trend appears.

Aren't there some things she would NOT do just because everybody does it? Ask her for examples. Tell her to really think about whether she wants others (including the television and other media) to pressure her into choices that may not be good ones. We don't have to do what "Everybody" does.

"The Lemming Condition" is a fabulous little book by Alan Arkin. It's a great example of what happens if you always do what "Everybody" does.

Other "Everybody" excuses that parents need to shoot down:

n "Everybody" comes home whenever they want to. They don't have a curfew.

n I want a car! "Everybody" drives to school now instead of using the bus.

n Of course it is OK to have sex (or drink or do drugs) "¦"Everybody" does it.

I watched a television morning show recently and saw Adam Mansbach, the author of "Go the F"¦K to Sleep" defend his use of profanity in the book and on the cover, "Because EVERYBODY talks that way today."

Another book mentioned was "If You Give the Kid a Cookie Will He Shut the F"¦k Up?" Both books perpetuate the belief that profanity is OK and normal.

I disagree. This is not the way "everybody" talks. When we call this "normal," we are condoning it and escalating the problem.

When I called Horizon Books, the manager agreed, but also said that bookstores have to stock what sells and these are currently best-sellers. On the other hand, she said, "Talking this way is not cool, nor is it a sign of intelligence; it is just plain bad manners." I totally agree.

When you say "Everybody" does something, it means that NO ONE has to take responsibility for their behavior. (How convenient.) And that's an even bigger problem with both today's children and adults.

Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com.

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