WT 032: What If I Don't Like My Child's Friends?

Now is the time of year where kids are making new friends at school... but what if you don't like or know who they're hanging out with? Today Karen talks about teens with emotionally manipulative friends, what to do when you when your kids start to get older and make tons of friends you can't keep straight, and even what to do if you are concerned about your kid's friend's parents.

Question 1: Karen, what is the best way to handle or influence your teen who is drawn to an emotionally manipulative relationship with a peer?

Karen's Answer: This is a tricky one! And if you have teens it is always an issue. I think the best way to handle this situation, is to not attack it head on, but use the back door so to speak. I am a very direct person, but in dealing with teens and their friends, sometimes if you show all your cards...you could find yourself holding a ticking time bomb. So, I would start by would encouraging other relationships, or conveniently be “busy” with family things when the friends want to get together. Always invite those friends over to your house.

There were times that I was less than crazy about certain friends.  Like I said, I tried never to come and say “I don’t like that girl/boy," because then my child would say, “I know you don’t like them, or you are judging them.” I felt like I lost my influence when I did that. So, I always had an open door policy at our house.  I tried to welcome everyone.  And then when those friends would invite my child over or wanted to go off to hang out, we were conveniently, “busy."

I think it’s wise to take note of the “friends” are hanging out with , because we all know the company you keep influences you as a person.  Try not to over react and keep your cool.  The worst thing a parent can do is to freak out, and that makes your child run to the friends even more.

Question 2: We have close family friends that we adore – and they have a 12-year-old daughter the same age as our daughter and they are close friends. Our friend’s daughter is a bit more naturally confident and sassy. Even though they’ve been friends their entire lives, I’ve noticed that now when my daughter hangs out with the other little girl, she comes home with an incredibly sassy attitude and I find myself wondering where my sweet girl went. Since not being friends isn’t an option, how do I address this?

Karen's Answer: I hear what you are saying, but it’s hard to determine whether it’s the friend rubbing off on your daughter or just a normal 12 year old girl feeling her oats.  Maybe you should ask your daughter, “Where is this attitude coming from? You used to not act sassy and you didn’t have an attitude. Is it your hormones or your friends? Let’s try to keep it in check."

I think all children model what they see at school and if one child is getting away with things, then your child thinks to themselves, “I’ll try it.” It is our job as a parents to educate them on what will “fly” in our family and what will not. Children are going to get away with whatever they can, that is human nature. I have even said to my child, “That sassiness may work in the _______ household, but it doesn’t work in the Stubbs household, so straighten it up."

Question 3: Karen, this is an oddly specific question, but it’s real – so I’m guessing I’m not the only mom who is in a similar situation. My son has really bonded with another boy in his class and they are great friends. The other little boy is very sweet and a good kid. The issue is, the other boy’s family is known in our community for suing people for their livelihood. I know that’s bizarre but it’s true.  We have a pool and a jungle gym and lots of things that a child could potentially hurt themselves on and even though my son is begging to have this boy over to play, I am terrified to have him in our home. I when I decide he isn’t coming over, I feel un-Christian. When I decide to let him come over, I feel irresponsible. Please help!!

Karen's Answer: Hmm, this is a tough one. I never personally experienced this as a mom, but I'm sure others have and they're probably very glad you asked this question. You could tell the mom of this boy, that you have a pool and a jungle gym and that you usually allow the boys to go play without supervision, and you could ask her if she is okay with that.  If she says, yes then you have your disclaimer.  If you want to be extra careful, you can record your conversation.

With this situation, you just need to cover your bases.  It may feel awkward, but better safe than sorry.

Question 4: My daughter went to a smaller elementary and jr high school where I knew all the kids and their parents. Now, she’s in a huge high school and making so many friends that I can barely keep their names straight. I am happy for her and her social life, but I feel really uneasy not knowing who she is hanging out with. They are also at the age where they can drive, so they like to hang out at malls, movie theaters, etc. and not at our home. Is this just a me problem that I need to get over?  

Karen's Answer: I think all of us moms struggle with this topic, but good news is she is in high school and is older and wiser, and hopefully making good choices because you’ve done a great job in teaching her! My advice is to not panic, invite the friends over whenever you can, and don’t worry unless she starts showing you signs where she is changing for the worse. Trust her!

I can remember all my children talking about people in their classes and then the next weekend they wanted to go somewhere with them. If I had concerns I would say, “I would like to meet this person before you go on a date with them, or go galavanting all over the place with them." Also, I’d go to high school football games, not to watch the team play, but to hopefully meet the friends.  The more you stay involved, even loosely, the better. When I say loosely, I mean, if your child is on a team, volunteer to work the concession stand so you can meet other parents, or their friends. If they are in drama, or the band volunteer.  The schools are always looking for help and by helping you can “see” what is going on around your child without them even knowing what you are doing.

Resources Mentioned:

Parenting by The Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child by John Rosemond

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

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