Ever found yourself hating one of your kid’s friends? OK, that’s extreme. I’m no hater. But every now and then, my kids will choose a friend who is, a little, um, well, let’s see here, unhealthy. And it irks me. To say the least.
My last post, When You Can’t Choose Your Kids’ Friends Anymore, addressed a common mom quandary: What to do when your tween and his friend have a rift – and you’re friends with the mom. This one’s even harder. Now the kid is old enough to do her own friend picking, rendering my opinion irrelevant – never mind that there’s a kid stressing her out with drama or convincing her to sneak out of the house at night or is otherwise shifty, mean or rude.
So what do I do about it?
What I should do:
Since my kids have their friends and I’ve got mine, since we are sep-a-rate people, I should, I really should, step back. There’s nothing to be gained by getting all judgy. I’ve been at this mom thing long enough to know that judgment only makes our own relationship worse. In fact, I’ve learned that with my teens, there is a direct line between my finger-wagging and their digging in heels. By all wise accounts, I should be content in the knowledge that my very intuitive kids will figure out what’s good for them faster if I refrain from broadcasting my disapproval across the house.
What I want to do:
Controlling my tongue and facial twitches is not my strong suit. No matter how hard I try to hide it, I’m annoyed when my kids surround themselves with people whose parents are AWOL and who consistently demonstrate bad judgment. That annoyance is hard to contain, especially since I know from my own childhood that no matter how smart teens are, peer pressure and a desire to fit in will make them to a host of stupid things they would have sworn they’d never, ever do just a couple of years ago.
So I want to jump into the fray and put that bad news kid out before he spreads his nonsense all over mine.
What I force myself to do:
Perspective, perspective, perspective…
I’ve learned that truly “bad” kids, and there aren’t many, don’t tend to stick around. They’re alluring but after some time, their spark tends to flicker and so does the relationship.
Most kids change with the seasons. They can be mean, out of control, and otherwise hate-able one month, and perfectly agreeable the next. If you label a kid as “bad” you can’t take it back (oops). And they might hear you said it, making them feel uncomfortable in your house.
In the meantime, my kids are more likely to confide in me about their friend dynamics if I’m sitting on the sidelines quietly watching. I tend to nod, give measured advice when asked, and keep the line open for further communication.
Learning what’s going on from my kid’s perspective gives me an opportunity to support and guide. I can ask questions such as, “What do you like about this kid?” and “How does that make you feel?” Sometimes, my teen will realize something about her own motivations, and sometimes, she’ll clue me in to some wonderful quality about her friend that I didn’t see.
In the end, I’m sure of one thing. My kids need to build their own ‘friend radar’. While there’s often short-term pain (a boyfriend lost, a rumor spread, a house busted, a lesson learned), it’s a valuable skill developed over time. Slowly, with each “bad” friend moment, we learn whom to trust and when and why – and that’s hard to do if we parents keep stepping in to kick them out – just in the nick of time.