Do you like your child’s friend choices? Perhaps you don’t pay much attention because you are just glad they have friends to hang out with, friends to keep them busy. Or maybe your reactions weigh heavily in the opposite direction: you are ultra-cautious, perhaps paranoid about your kids’ friend choices.
Who your child hangs out with is important. Not only do they influence your child, but they also show you what is important to your child and what they want in a friend. As the proverb says: Show me the people your kids hang out with and it will tell you what your child will become.*
Here’s what to look for to see if your child’s friend choices are good ones.
A good friend treats adults–including you–with respect. Can they look you in the eye? Do they abide by your family and house rules? Do they encourage your child to not listen to their parents?
A good friend does not make excuses for their behavior and always blames others. It’s his fault! I didn’t do anything, she did it!
A good friend is not possessive or jealous. A healthy friendship does not insist that they are exclusive and cannot have other good friends.
A good friend does not try to control your child. That kind of behavior borders on bullying.
A good friend encourages your child to make good choices.
A good friend is not one who gets in trouble a lot and then lies to cover it up. They know that what they did was wrong, but at the same time, they don’t want to get in trouble for what they did.
A good friend doesn’t talk badly about others. When kids gossip, it usually gets ugly. The goal is to have your kids change the subject or stand up for someone if mean gossip begins.
A good friend keeps promises. They stick by their word.
A good friend forgives. Even good friends have fights and hurt each other. A good friend understands this and forgives when a friend messes up.
A good friend is loyal. They have your child’s back.
A good friend makes your child happy. When your child is playing with them or when they are done playing together, your child is in a good mood.
A good friend listens to your child and shares. A healthy friendship is never one-sided. A good friend genuinely cares.
It is okay to teach your child to be picky about the friends they choose. It’s important that your child knows what to look for in a friend because they will be making that choice for the rest of their life. Teach them how to do it when they are young so they can avoid hurtful friendships when they are older.
What if my child chooses a friend I do not like?
Once your child is in school, they will begin choosing their own friends. The older they get, you will obviously have less and less control on who they hang out with. If your child chooses a friend you don’t like, invite them into your home often and hope that the love and values you practice will influence them.
If the child is a bad influence on your child, causing them to do things that are unsafe or dishonest, you should try to limit their time with that child, without banning the friendship altogether. Talk to your child about what a good friend looks like and get them to take a closer look at the friendship. The goal is to help them see that perhaps that person is not one they should spend a lot of time with. You can simply tell them NO and chances are, an argument will ensue. OR you could ask them questions and get them thinking about their friend choice.
Should I step in if my child has a fight with a friend?
When your child has a fight with a friend, listen to their frustration, but do not interfere. Have faith in your child to handle the fight. Again, this is an opportunity to coach them through the process of reconciliation, not try to resolve it for them.
I’m concerned that my child doesn’t have enough friends.
There is not a right or wrong number of friends. Some kids only like one or two; others prefer a larger group. This is based on your child’s personality and wishes.
My child says they have no friends.
If your child complains that they have no friends, hear them out. Help them think through this by asking questions like, “Did something happen at school or in sports today between you and your friends?”
Every parent wants their children to grow up knowing how to make wise friend choices. Teach your child what good friend should be like and how they can discern the ones that might be a bad influence.
If you have a parenting concern, schedule a free consultation here.