When your child has a friend who is a bad influence, what can you do?
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My son is 10 now and for 2 years has a best friend that I truly love. However, he is a HUGE influence and my son almost now mimicks his character and this is not good. His BFF has parents that fight constantly, he has issues, runs away, mouthy and knows far too many "adult' things now which makes him inappropriate. But he always listens to me and behaves with exception of the inappropriate words and knowledge as of late. How do I sever or do I sever this friendship?
The most important advice we have always given our twins is that our family has a set of rules that we alwasy follow and sometimes other families have different rules but our rules are our rules. Part of our advice also includes a reminder we always want our children to talk to us about anything -- good or bad!
We talk a lot about "different families, different rules." It's hard to keep the focus on good behavior without slamming someone else's parenting skills! So when I see a playdate or a situation at preschool going into dangerous territory, I try to pull my daughter aside, remind her of the values we practice in our family, and guide her toward better choices. Doesn't always work, but it keeps the peace all the way around (most of the time.) We talk through tricky situations at the end of the day and think out loud together about ways to make them better. It's tricky finding a balance because I don't want to limit her time with her friends (even if they aren't always the best influences!) Keeping an open dialogue and respecting that different families operate in different ways is my best strategy!
My 3 year old son has a couple of friends who can be a bit aggressive towards him when they play together, which initially was a bit upsetting, as my son is so easy going and wouldn't dare take a toy away from another kid. He used to just look to me and rely on me to fight his battles for him, which as parents we sometimes have to do when they are young. The play wasn't too threatening so I didn't want him to stop playing with those kids and put him in a bubble. But over the last 5 -6 months since he has been attending preschool (and learning new social skills), I have seen a gradual change in him and his behavior. He has become more assertive in his actions and communication skills. He stands up for himself and doesn't let other kids walk all over him. I hope this is something that will continue as he gets older, with our guidance, as unfortunately bullying is something he may encounter as he gets older.
When this happens, I do nothing to encourage the friendship. I set up no playdates with the kid. We're always busy when the kid invites mine to playdates. Because I have 4 children, people usually don't think twice about us declining invitations...they chalk it up to us being truly busy. I talk with my child about choices and acceptable and appropriate behaviors...and about the consequences when choices made are not good ones and when behaviors are out of bounds.
Ideally, the best thing to do is keep your child close. I don't mean smother them or shadow their every move. I'm talking about putting yourself in the position of being point person.
1. For a week or two (or a month!), schedule fun activities that keep your child busy with family or structured activities that don't involve this friend. This will start your child looking to you as their compass instead of this other kid.
If the situation is really bad, consider taking your child out of school for a week and go away with them, somewhere away from friends and Facebook. Take away their cell phone. Kids can only have one attachment, and it's either going to be you or their peer group. Make sure it's you.
2. Make the sacrifice to know where your child is during those in-between times, like after school or before the basketball game. Unstructured time is bad news.
3. DO NOT criticize the other child at home. This will just make your child have to choose loyalties and anything you say could get back to the other family, which is sure to cause unnecessary drama.
4. On the other hand, feel free to say, "I know this child is making some choices that could get you in trouble later, and I know you don't want that sort of mess. Please feel free to use me as an excuse if you need to get out of a tricky situation."
5. Be supportive of your child, even if you're fearful. Say things like, "You have great instincts. You make really good decisions." So many kids are silently praying for their parents' approval. Don't make them hope. Say it. Live it.
6. Do not shame your child or threaten them if they are in contact with this friend. Your child needs your support and love, not fear or bullying. Again, don't make them choose between you and their friend.
7. If this friend is in your child's class at school, talk to the teacher and ask if they can keep the kids apart when possible.
For more on dealing with kids who are attached to their peers instead of parents, I highly recommend Gordon Neufeld. His work is gentle, powerful and downright amazing. He's all about connection, not control. Search for his videos on YouTube. http://neufeldinstitute.com/
This has happened to my daughters. Don't panic. Usually your child will eventually drift away from the friend if that friend truly is bad news. The best advice I can give is to try to give your child a little space from the friend. This may mean requesting your child be in a different classroom than the friend the next year. The best thing I did for my daughter was to change schools. I didn't do this because of a "bad influence" friend, but because we had to: bus route changes. However, it worked out for the best because after she left her "best friend," I learned the "best friend" had been bullying her for years and was more of a frenemy. The two completely drifted apart after the school change.