By the time your child is eight or nine years old he will start spending more time outside of the home, and in the company of friends. But what do you do when you hate your child’s friends? Maybe you think they’re a bad influence. They use bad words, or they spend too much time playing video games. How can you say, ‘This has got to stop!’
Of course we all know that telling our child to stop seeing them will only have the opposite effect. They will only meet behind your back, hate you for ‘judging’ them, and have more fun because their friendship is ‘forbidden.’ Here are some parenting tips to help you handle this situation, effectively but fairly and diplomatically.
Parenting tip # 1: Condemn the behavior, not the friend.
This is especially true for younger kids, who only copy what they see and are often influenced by a home situation that is beyond their control. For example, one mom was very upset at a neighbor’s son who frequently used bad words. She thought he was rude and rebellious, but upon getting to know him, realized he was actually quite a loyal and generous friend. He got his bad words from watching movies (his parents were too busy or distracted to filter his TV habits).
So instead of calling his friend names (which doesn’t exactly set a good example to your child, either) focus on the rule. ‘We don’t use that language in this house.’ Or, ‘Please say that sentence again, in a nicer tone.’
Parenting tip # 2: Praise the behavior of friends you do like.
You don’t have to be so obvious as to say, ‘Steve is a really good boy! I really like him!’ Just casually say, ‘Steve seems very responsible. He called his mom to say he was going to be late.’ This allows your son to find role models among his friends and reinforces the values you want to teach.
Parenting tip # 3: Use subtle intervention.
It’s better to fix the situation without any direct confrontation. For example, if your child’s grades are going down because he’s always talking to his talkative seatmate, ask the teacher to move him to the front—without saying anything to your child. Or, if you notice that your daughter always comes home late when she hangs out with a particular friend, offer to pick her up.
Parenting tip # 4: Befriend the ‘enemy.’
Instead of pushing your child’s friend away, draw him closer. Invite him over for dinner so you get a chance to get to know him. Encourage them to hang out in the house, where you can also supervise them. Who knows, your family and your child may even become a good influence!
It also helps to befriend the child’s parents, too. It will help you understand the child’s behavior and gives you a chance to talk to them if something really bothers you. But be specific. Don’t just say, ‘Your kid is a bad influence!’ You can say, ‘I’m really worried about the time they spend hanging out in the arcade. My son’s grades are going down… Is there any way we can work together, so our kids hang out but still get enough study time?’
Photo from sheknows.com