Gina G. learned the hard way that you can’t pick your teen’s friends: the more she warned her daughter away from kids she deemed "no good," the more the teen desired their company. She's among many Circle of Moms members who find that once a teen chooses friends who are a bad influence, moderating (or ending) that influence is an uphill battle for a parent. But Teresa, another member who has a teen, points out that your kids' friendship mishaps can at least teach lessons — as long as you "hold your child accountable for what happens."
Here, she and other parents share what they most want their kids to understand about friendship – whether their teens are listening or not.
1. You Are Who You Hang Out With
If only teens realized that the actions of their friends reflect on them as well. A member named Kristin describes how she tried to teach the "you are who you hang out with" lesson to her teen son. She was trying to help him understand that his reputation with coaches, teachers and others will be tarnished if he keeps hanging out with a friend who likes to set garbage cans on fire: "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.'" Luckily, whiile Kristen says her son doesn't always listen, sometimes he listen, he did eventually dump the friend.
Mary S. has also tried to teach her teens the importance of choosing their peers carefully, and underscores just how critical a life lesson it is: "I tell my kids that they're judged by the company they keep," she says. "If they spend their time with unruly peers, they'll be looked at by others as just as unruly. It's simply choosing to be blind to not realize that our kids will be influenced by who they hang with. Peer pressure is at its peak in the teen years, so I want to make sure they are not influenced by the reckless one set upon self destruction."
2. Be a Positive Influence
Melissa R. wishes her teen daughter would not only avoid emulating kids who are behaving badly in order to be popular, but take the lead on rerouting them. So far, she thinks her daughter gets it. "Sometimes, these 'bad children' need a good friend," she says. "I tell my daughter that I have to trust her to make the right decision no matter who she is with, and often, if she makes the right decision, her friend will too. My daughter is 15 years old and has recruited two of her friends (that I was not crazy about in the beginning) [into] going to church with us and joining our youth program."
3. Good Guys Do Exist
Most moms wish they could protect their daughters (and sons, too) from making poor dating choices and getting their hearts broken. With that in mind, Jana R. wishes she could teach her kids what makes an opposite sex friendship healthy: "With my daughter, I have just tried to talk openly about what qualities she look[s] for and why those are important."
Jana uses her own marriage as an example, sharing with her daughter the qualities that led her to pick her husband, and also tries to point out positive qualities in the boys her daughter knows.
4. Beware of Bullies
If there is one lesson Shelly B. recommends for teens it's the one about bullies. Kids are trying especially hard to fit in with the crowd and be popular during the teen years, so they're especially vulnerable to falling in with someone who is bullying others. She feels it's crucial to "have the bully talk" at this age, even if you also had it when your child was younger. "Talk to your teens and let them know what it means to be a friend and give them specific examples of what a bad friend is."
5. Be Picky
Helen G. knows not to say anything negative about her teen’s friends, but she does wish she could teach her daughter to be more selective when she's picking friends. "I want her to think about ‘Does it bother you when they do that?’ Or ‘Is this behavior something that you can live with or is it a deal breaker?’ Or, ‘Do [I] think that what they said or did is right?" Helen feels that if her children examined their friendships more closely, they would make better decisions.
What lessons about friendship do you try to teach your teen?
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