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As schools start, new kids join classes and old classmates meet again. But what happens when your child starts hanging out with the wrong crowd?
You may experience everything from slight annoyance to strong dislike for their new friends. Perhaps it is the little things: they are noisy, use foul language or destroy things. Maybe you have issues with the parents and their way of bringing up their child. One thing is for sure, you know it will be bad news for the upbringing of your child and you want them separated.
Your instinct tells you to restrict their time together, but soon you will see how this won’t work.
1. Your child may announce to everybody why they are pulling away: and the reason is you.
2. You may trigger the ‘Romeo and Juliet effect’, and make this child more attractive than they would have been otherwise.
3. Your child may continue to see their friend behind your back and learn to lie to you in the process, eventually driving a wedge between you.
4. You are making them miss an important lesson in life: developing healthy boundaries.
So, unless your child is in imminent danger, restricting who they see violates their autonomy. But what is a parent to do?
There are several other ways around this slippery slope.
1. Take the time to get to know their friend.
To understand what your child likes about this buddy, you can spend some time getting to know the other kid. Finding the good in a person might help you see their annoying traits in a new light. Remember, their new buddy is still developing, so some of the things that bother you now may become less noticeable.
2. Don’t automatically blame the other kid for your child’s bad conduct.
Your kid may have participated willingly, and he/she may have even urged their buddy along. Every young person occasionally acts foolishly, even your own child.
3. Organize playdates
You don’t have to be best friends with everyone your kid befriends, but you can show them you care by being a welcoming host. As a bonus, if you are worried about your friend’s behavior, this way you can keep an eye on things.
4. Get your rules straight.
It’s not fair to be furious at anyone for not respecting your rules when you haven’t made them clear, to begin with. If you keep your frustration bottled up, your anger will only grow, and the child will continue to act out. So have a talk about your rules and boundaries first. It might also help to have a frank discussion with your kid’s friend, outlining the house rules. The phrase “In our household, we take our shoes off at the entrance” is one such example.
5. Teach your kid to make friends.
Our ultimate hope is that our children use good judgment when forming friendships. Instead of declaring, “I don’t like that kid!”, try explaining why you don’t get along with the friend in question.
Try asking questions so you have an understanding of what needs your kid’s friend covers. The answer to the question “How do you normally feel when you’re with him?” can be used as a reliable indicator of how close a friend they actually are. Asking, “In your opinion, what makes a good friend?” may be a way in if you want to explain your worries. Be gentle as you approach the most delicate parts of such talk though.
6. Help your kid make new friends
When kids have nowhere else to go, they may choose to remain friends with a bully. We can’t force our kids to be friends with anyone, but we can help them meet new people and strengthen existing relationships, by enrolling them in an after-school activity or encouraging a new playdate.
It is possible that your kid’s unfavorable friendship may fade away as time goes on, or it’ll become more positive as the two kids mature together. But always keep in mind that young people often need to go through what they dislike in order to find out what they do like.