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Dealing with Unappealing or "Bad" Children: My Child's Friend Drives Me Crazy!
I recently read an excellent Hub by Cardelean talking about the teaching of kindness and good deeds by filling up your friend's and your own imaginary bucket with kindness. Her Hub got me thinking about the friendships in our lives and dealing with friendships that just don't work.
One of the things that I stress in our children is kindness. It is the top requirement in our family (along with no baby talk.) That pretty much covers everything, right? Kindness. Kindess to ourselves, kindness to our family members, kindness to our friends, kindess to strangers, and kindness to our things and those things of others. While I believe with all my heart that kindness is the key to happiness, sometimes our children pair up with other kids that aren't kind or aren't the best influence.
I'm sure there are many parents who have had to deal with friends of their children that are unkind and that they would rather not see their child play with. There is also the situation where your child decides they would rather not be friends with a child and how do we as parents deal with this situation. Let's take a look at those two scenarios.
Some Friendships Just Work Organically
My Child Doesn't Want to Be Friends with Your Child
Ugh! This is a horrible situation. What if your child doesn't want to be friends with another child, and, to make it worse, you are friends with the parent. We have been in this situation before where our daughter just didn't mesh well with another little girl. As adults we have control over who we want to be friends with and there are definitely people that I choose not to be-friend. Children have the same instincts about their friends, but how do we deal with the situation when the other child wants to be their friend?
Back to the kindness bucket; I tell my girls they have to be kind and friendly but do not have to be best friends with every child. In our situation, I insist that my daughter is kind with the little girl and inclusive when she is around. I do not however accept playdates on behalf of our daughter at this child's house or voluntarily invite her over to our house. While this may seem a bit harsh, I feel like it's not fair to my daughter to disrespect her choice of who she wants as a friend.
If the child was one that I felt our daughter could become friends with, I may try to encourage it; but, if she ultimately decided the friendship wasn't what she wanted, I would respect that.
Me and My "Wild" Friend
Dealing With Unappealing Friends of Your Child
It feels like a horrible thing to say, but there may be some children that you don't want your children around. Let me start off by saying, I believe that all children are inherently good and that we can find goodness in them all. However, when it comes to our children, there are situations where we would rather our children find different friends. When children are young, we can shield them from these friendships, but as they get older, they have to make their own choices. Let's go through the different options of dealing with friends that parents find unappealing:
- Maybe your child knows something you don't. When I was young I had a wild friend, in fact she's still a bit wild compared to me (that doesn't say too much.) She got along horribly with her mom, dated much older boys, and was always a bit mischievous. She was, however, a great friend and didn't do anything that was too bad, i.e., illegal. My mom trusted me and thus trusted her. She is now still one of my best friends and an amazing person! If you have confidence in your child's decisions then maybe they know something about the child that you don't. I would encourage a dialogue about the situation though. Your trust can go a long way.
- Splitting up the friendship. When children are young this may be a possibility, but parents of older children will have a harder time doing this. The likelihood that this method will backfire on you is high. Most children respond better when they feel like they are in control of their actions; creating a scenario where you child chooses to be with other friends over their "bad" friend is the best way to discourage the friendship. Having faith in your child and how you've parented them in most cases will pay off. However, If you feel like the situation is out of control, i.e., your child is being put in danger by this child, you have to lay down the law. Your child's safety is your number one concern and if they are in danger, the friendship must stop. If your child is living in your house, you make the rules. Be very clear about what is expected of them and have clear consequences if they break the rules. Sometimes it is no fun being a parent, and this is one of those situations. Hopefully, they will thank you for them someday.
- Have faith in your child and your parenting. If you have raised your child to know the difference between right and wrong and act on those beliefs in an appropriate way, they will more likely than not drift away from a toxic friendship. I can't stress enough the importance of an open dialogue with your child in these situations. If your child doesn't know how to get out of the friendship, try role playing on how to deal with different situations with the other child. You may feel awkward doing this, but it works. Talk to your child about what is happening on a day-to-day basis. This communication has to start early so it feels organic later on in the pre-teen and teen years.
Be an Example
The best way to ensure good friendships for your child is to model good friendships. Point out to your child how you are a good friend and how you interact with your friends. Create an environment that is not gossipy and unkind and your child will follow suit. I think we all can benefit from the kindness bucket that Cardelean opened our eyes to.