How do moms get their teens to detach from friends who are a bad influence? “Our 14-year-old has this friend who seems to create trouble everywhere she goes,” says Amy. “Her friend encourages her to be rude to [me] and my husband and simply seems to be bad news.” Jackie T. shares a similar plight: My daughter hangs out with a group of friends that we don’t necessarily approve of. But we truly believe we are here to guide her and not rule her. So how do I keep her from swaying off her path?”
Welcome to the struggle of moms who question the crowds their teens are hanging out with. Like Amy and Jackie, many have discovered that their teens don't want mom interfering, and feel their parents have no right to pick their friends. This means that the effort to end unhealthy friendships has to be something of a covert operation. Here, Circle of Moms members share some stealth tactics for trying to get through to your teen on this sensitive subject, and for heading off the "bad apples."
1. Avoid “I Just Don’t Like Her”
Instead of pronouncing that you don’t like one of your teen’s friends, a better way to try to deliver the message is by giving examples of behavior that concerns you. Give specific reasons, says Circle of Moms member Kristin S. “Last year when my son was 14 he had a friend who was always in trouble,” she says. “He even started a fire in a trash can at the park when my son was with him. I sat my kid down and simply said, if you keep hanging around this boy his reputation will become yours and everyone will think you're that brain dead. It will affect how coaches treat you and even [which] girls like you. Shortly thereafter he dumped the kid as a friend. “
Badmouthing the friend will backfire, adds a member named Cherilyn. “Do not criticize the other child at home. This will just make your child have to choose loyalties." The trick, she advises, is to give your kid an easier way out of the friendship. She suggests telling your own kids, "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."
Kim C. also points out the importance of keeping the focus on the friend’s behavior and avoiding labeling. “I have talked to my son from a very young age about being grouped in with the friends that you hang around,” she says. “I often ask him what his friends will turn out like if they keep up with this or that.”
2. Set Limits
You don’t want your child to think you are picking on his friend, but that instead you are setting limits on the kind of behavior you want him to engage in with his friends, say Theresa and other moms. Try to de-personalize the situation, she adds. “You can't pick her friends but you can hold her accountable. Tell your son that if the ‘friends’ got in trouble and he wasn't involved that he would still suffer the punishment, without question.”
Angie L. agrees that setting limits can help diffuse the situation. “Only allow the child to hang out with this friend in a controlled environment (such as only at your home or in a group setting),” she says. “Then you know what your child is doing and you know he/she isn’t getting into trouble. “
Inviting the friends home is another way to set limits, says Antonia F. Even if he is hanging out with ‘the bad apple,” if they are under your roof, you have a greater clue as to what is going on, she says. “Invite them over and be their best friend and never let on to your child that you dislike the friendship. Become a role model for the 'wayward' child and your child will soon get bored of him.”
3. Talk It Through
Making sure your child understands that he has freedom of choice when it comes to making friends, as long as he stays within the acceptable zone that you discuss with him, is a reasonable way to handle this issue, says Jenny F. “We talk through tricky situations at the end of the day and think out loud together about ways to make them better,” she says. “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 and their friends operate in different ways is my best strategy.”
4. Take a Hard Line
Despite your best efforts, many Circle of Moms including Lynn M. know firsthand that kids will do what they want and if you forbid your child from something or someone it can create a magnet effect, driving the child closer to the friend you don’t want him to hang out with. “Sadly there is not much you can do except not allow her in your home,” says Lynn M. “I have found that if you forbid them to hang out they will do it behind your back. Do you trust your child enough to make the right choice even if it takes them a little while to see this friend's true colors? Talk to your kid, tell them you are not fond of this new friend and give them reasons why, and then trust that your child will make the right choice.”
But there are some Circle of Moms members who say that forbidding the friendship is the only way to nip it in the bud. Connie L. explains: “Bad friends are the worst influences for your child. In my son's situation, we just don't let him go out for very long with his bad friend. We tell him why he can't hang with him for long periods of time. I take my kids out to places they like to go quite often but if he wants to bring his ‘bad friend’ I say ‘Nah, choose another friend.’ If he wants to do fun things, have more privileges and trust, he needs to do it with the friends I trust more. Teens love to be trusted and I just tell him honestly, ‘I don't trust that friend so I don't want you to be put in an uncomfortable situation with him to where I wouldn't trust you either."
Mary S. believes that parents of teens should be able to pick their friends. She says: “Why can't you pick her friends? You are her mother. I have more than once sent a kid packing when I did not like their behavior or attitude. One girl that is a daughter of a woman I was once close to is a horrible example. This girl is 17 and sneaks out windows at night and takes her mother’s car while she is sleeping. I made it clear to my daughter that she is to avoid this girl while she is sowing her wild oats. And that if I ever caught her with her she will lose her world (car, cell phone, outings)."
What do you do when your child’s friends are bad news?
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