What to do when you don’t like your kid’s friends

April 13, 2019
  • What kind of friends does he have?
    1 / 6 What kind of friends does he have?

    As he grows older, your child starts to make his own decisions about what he wants to wear, what he wants to eat and what he wants to watch on television.

    He also starts to choose his own friends to play with in school. You are glad to know that he has lots of friends. Yet that delight begins to turn sour when you notice that he has subtly changed.

    While he used to be polite, well-mannered, and considerate, after a few years in primary school, he has started to display bad habits like lying, stealing, swearing and boasting. He even uses disgusting words that you never use at home.

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  • Tread carefully
    2 / 6 Tread carefully

    You’re walking a tightrope in this situation. On the one hand, heaping heavy criticism on him, and accusing him of deteriorating habits because he keeps bad company, could drive him closer to his pals and further from you – and that would be self-defeating.

    On the other hand, ignoring the behaviour simply encourages him to continue down the slippery slope created by keeping bad company.

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  • He's afraid of losing his pals
    3 / 6 He's afraid of losing his pals

    The challenge facing your child – and this is why he has fallen into this pattern of behaviour in the first place – is to keep a good relationship with his classmates without resorting to the anti-social behaviour which is the norm for that group.

    Quite simply, he is afraid that by behaving the way you want him to behave, he’ll lose his friends. The classroom and school playground can be a very lonely place for a kid who is rejected or isolated by his peers.

    Every child wants to be part of the group, and if that means adopting bad habits like swearing, cursing, being rude and stealing, then that’s the price that many vulnerable children are prepared to pay.

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  • Be understanding
    4 / 6 Be understanding

    Tell him you understand his dilemma. Put it positively. Say: “I understand that you are behaving like this because you want to stay friends with the others in your class” or “I am upset by this behaviour because you are really such a well-behaved child”.

    Statements such as these confirm you are on his side, that you’re not just choosing to clash with him.

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  • Becoming an individual
    5 / 6 Becoming an individual

    Then, suggest to him that he can mix with this group of children without adopting their habits.

    Point out that he is a wonderful child with, say, a good sense of humour, interesting ideas, good communication skills and so on; remind him that others will like him for these reasons and that he doesn’t need to be anti-social to stay pals with his classmates.

    Talk about the unique characteristics that make him special. In this way, you suggest that he moderates his rude behaviour, rather than break with his friends altogether.

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  • Use positive feedback
    6 / 6 Use positive feedback

    Next, steadily increase your expectations about his proper behaviour. Try to broaden his social circle so that he almost naturally drifts away from bad company towards more desirable friends.

    Your positive feedback on his progress adds strength to this strategy – he thrives under your praise and approval. In the end, you may have to take a much more dogmatic approach if these gentle methods fail to bring about the improvements in his habits that you seek, but it is worth trying this more subtle approach at first.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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