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Dealing with Unappealing or "Bad" Children: My Child's Friend Drives Me Crazy!

Updated on May 20, 2013

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

Georgia and her BF Naomi
Georgia and her BF Naomi

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

Nobody makes me laugh harder
Nobody makes me laugh harder

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Has your child chosen the wrong friend/friends?

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Questions & Answers

    How do you deal with unappealing children?

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      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 4 years ago from San Francisco

        Good advice, crafty. Personally, I'd rather have a few great friends then a lot of good friends. Thanks for the comment! ;)

      • CraftytotheCore profile image

        CraftytotheCore 4 years ago

        These are really good household rules for children. The other thing that I try to help my daughter with is finding friends who are truly good friends. There is one little girl that begged my daughter for my cell phone so she could come over one afternoon. The problem was she started calling relentlessly. I told her I would need to speak to her mother because there didn't seem to be any involvement by the mother in this arrangement. However, upon speaking with the mother, she had no idea the little girl was making plans.

        I've since learned the little girl bounces from house to house on weekends. I told my daughter that it's fun to have a lot of nice friends. But it's also nice to have one good friend that doesn't make her second choice all the time.

      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 4 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks for the comment, Writer's Fox. I agree that all kids deserve a chance and inviting a child into your house can have lasting impacts. It's important to find that balance. :)

      • Writer Fox profile image

        Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

        I think all kids need a chance, especially kids who have a bad home life situation. An invitation to visit your home for a sleepover can be a great learning experience for a disadvantaged child and can actually change his/her future. I think your judgment is sound, though, in not sending your child into a home which you consider a bad environment.

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        Modeling anything, especially like kindness is first and foremost. I enjoyed reading this. Don't get to "wild" with that friend over Spring Break!

      • stephhicks68 profile image

        Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

        Wonderful advice! In our case, my son grew apart from a friend, and we were still friends with yhe parents. We gave similar advice to your scenario #1, but it was tough for a while.

      • moonlake profile image

        moonlake 5 years ago from America

        Our daughter was friends with a girl I liked but I didn't like her home life. Our daughter was always wanting to stay the night there. The girl’s mother lived in the bars so she was never home, she had much older brothers still at home, and her house was a fire hazard. I told my daughter her friend was welcome at our house anytime but she was never allowed to stay at the girl’s house. Even now our daughter talks about it and she said we made the right decision.

        I never made them be friends with kids they didn't want to be friends with. I did teach them to be kind.

        Our boys were friends with boys I didn't like but I had to put up with. I just kept as close an eye on them as I could and I didn't let them stay overnight at their homes.

        Great hub. Voted up

      • Sinea Pies profile image

        Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

        Great hub. Our kids have to be our first priority. Your advice to be kind but not pressured into being everybody's best friend is so wise. Voted up and useful, Robin...and shared. Hope lots of parents read this helpful hub.

      • favouriteperfume profile image

        favouriteperfume 5 years ago from Malvern, UK

        My wonderful best friend was great fun, but a bit wild too and was always trying to persuade me to try new things that I shouldn't (and I didn't). We still keep in touch, after all these years, though we're miles apart. She's a teacher now and she tells me she hopes her children grow up to be more like I was than she was when we were younger. Our families were both close and I think we all gained from working out our limits from one another.

      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Teresa. I guess that's all you can really hope for! You can't control them forever; you just hope you've given them the confidence and tools to make good decisions!

      • Teresa Coppens profile image

        Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Another excellent hub. It is hard when you see your kids getting into situations more out of your control. My kids are all teenagers but so far they have made good choices in friendships and have backed away on their own from those they became uncomfortable with.

      • Talisker profile image

        Honor Meci 6 years ago from UK

        I enjoyed reading your hub. It's true it's a very difficult area as children are so diverse in their attitudes and of course the ways they have been brought up. I also think that children can change and perhaps a not so appealing little friend can seem to grow up a bit and become much more of a positive influence. Having taught young children in a school setting, I've seen children falling in and out of friendships all the time as they are forming their own opinions as well as questioning the ways they have been brought up. A great hub, thank you

      • cljonesmusic profile image

        cljonesmusic 6 years ago from Southern Utah

        This was a great hub, Robin. I watched my kids choose their friends, and they each made wise choices. I am now watching their children, and of course, have the same worries about them, but they too, are making wise choices. The bottom line is how we make our children feel about themselves. Their needs determine what sort of friends they ultimately gravitate towards. As parents, we either fulfill or fail to fulfill their needs. When they venture into the world of friends, they fill in the gaps. We set the groundwork and lay the foundation. The key is as you stressed: communication. Write on! :)

      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 6 years ago from San Francisco

        Matthew, thanks for the comment. I love that your daughter has her own style; high school can be such a tough time for kids that are even a little different, but I'm sure she will do great - she has great parents! I also think you're smart to not allow sleep-outs with your other daughter if you aren't 100% trusting of her friends. That seems very reasonable. Thanks for the comment!

        Cathleena, thanks for the comment. 13 and 14 year old boys can be difficult - do they really need sleepovers? I'm sure you made the right choice!

        jean, thanks for the comment! Kindness is King!

        Frannie, you hit on an important point! Sometimes there are other factors that are going on either internally or externally that need to be dealt with. Our kids are so much more aware of different issues, autism, etc. Hopefully, that makes them more tolerant and accepting.

        Admiral_Joraxx, there isn't anything wrong with nerds! I love nerds! ;) Thanks for the comment!

        Denise, your daughters are lucky to have you as a mom. I can tell, at least through cardelean, that you have done a great job. It's so wonderful to have the two of you and your sister on HubPages. You bring a lot to the site! Thanks for your comment!

        Thanks, Cardelean! I appreciate it!

      • cardelean profile image

        cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

        Robin, I just thought that I'd let you know that I linked your hub to my bucket filling hub. Thanks again!

      • Denise Handlon profile image

        Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

        This is a marvelous Hub, Robin, that was recommended by Cardelean (who happens to be my daughter, :) ). You have hit some very important points here. I could have voted either way. Two daughters: one who was more wild than the other (yeah, you guessed it-it wasn't cardelean, LOL). In the end, they both have learned to make wise choices.

        But, I, along with my younger daughter, have had to face the : not good for you friend situation and it is tough. One actually was a b.f. and I was quite evil-he was really wild and had values that were opposite ours; which I am sure is why my youngest was attracted to him...well, he was invited to our home for dinner and that put the end to their relationship. I'm not sure if he sensed that it was a world of difference or if it was a natural moving on. My ploy worked in the end (idea taken from the Bette Midler movie: Stella).

        Point 2-my granddaughter and the family across the street. That one was a tough one-an only child across the street; parents fighting and in midst of divorce, yet my youngest broke up the friendship-it was a bad situation in the house that she could see not having a happy influence on my granddaughter. In the yrs that have past Devon has gone down some roads that Olivia will never be trekking, but the girls do talk and visit at O's house under my daughter's supervision.

        In the end: Kindness always. And, sometimes, kindness means breaking up a friendship.

        Great writing-voted up

      • Admiral_Joraxx profile image

        Admiral_Joraxx 6 years ago from Philippines

        Yeah children like these will most likely be nerds when they grow up. You got a good piece of wisdom right there Mommy robin. Parents should be well oriented this way specially in guiding their child about being socially responsible. Great hub.=)

      • Frannie Dee profile image

        Frannie Dee 6 years ago from Chicago Northwest Suburb

        I agree with your advice and believe children should be allowed to choose their friends in the spirit of kindness. I would add that sometimes the questionable children do have problems that should be dealth with on a professional level and should be evaluated to better understand. My nephew went through grade school without any friends and then was diagnosed with a mild case of autism (Asbergers).

      • jean2011 profile image

        jean2011 6 years ago from Canada

        I like what you said about being kind to everyone; and yes being kind to everyone does not mean you have to be friends with them. All great discussion points. I have voted this hub up and useful. Thank you for sharing!

      • Cathleena Beams profile image

        Cathleena Beams 6 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

        My boys combined 13 and 14 year birthday party was the last time they were allowed to invite a friend to spend the night since one of their friends brought inappropriate items with him to the party that he brought out and shared with the other boys after my husband and I went to bed. I put an end to that friendship for them even though I had been friends with the child's step-mom.

      • J.S.Matthew profile image

        JS Matthew 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

        I like the point you made about how you should explain to your child that they don't have to be "Best" friends with everyone they can be friends with. I know that personalities can conflict with each other, especially in school age children. My daughter is 14 and has her own style and some kids can be mean. She is a great kid and has a friendly personality. If people were more kind, they would look past the "book cover" and actually read the story!

        I can also relate to exposing your kids to "unappealing" friends. We have rules in our house, particularly with things like bedtime, social media privileges and gaming, etc. Sometimes my kids get mad because their friends can go to bed whenever they want, have computers in their rooms, etc. One of my daughters tends to be attracted to "wild" friends that often get in trouble at school. Although I don't "Ban" her from talking to them, we don't allow sleep-outs and we monitor where she is and what she's up to.

        Overall, my wife and I have faith in our kids and we talk to them about life every day. We also try to lead by example. Wow, this turned out to be a long comment!

        This is a really awesome Hub Robin! Thanks for sharing and getting me thinking!


      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 6 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks, Cardelean! Your Hub was definitely worthy of a link! Thanks for the inspiration. I have no doubt you will inspire kindness in your kids! They are lucky to have you as their teacher!

      • cardelean profile image

        cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

        Wow! First let me say that I am honored that my hub inspired you to write about this fantastic topic. And then let me thank you for the link, it is GREATLY appreciated!

        Although my children are still pretty much at the stage where they are at our mercy for playdates, I definitely agree with you that it is a must to be kind to others but to speak up for yourself if you don't like what is happening. I also agree that good modeling and then trusting that you have parented well is so important.

        Unfortunately my class this year is in great need of a GIANT kindness bucket. We are working on this and I'm hoping that they will at least leave my class with kindness if not actually use it this year in my class. Thanks so much for this great hub and again for the link.

      • Robin profile image

        Robin Edmondson 6 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks for the comment, Shea. Bullying is a whole other issue and has very different parental responsibilities. I'm sorry this happened to your son and am glad the family moved. Unfortunately, that child is probably bullying someone else's kid. Role playing in this situation is a great tool as well.

        Thanks, Camille. I was a head strong child, too but luckily my mom trusted me to make good decisions. For the most part, her instincts were right. ;)

      • Camille Harris profile image

        Camille Harris 6 years ago from SF Bay Area

        Excellent Hub, Robin! I think being an example for your children is one of the best lessons you've touched on above, as well as trusting your children to make the right decisions.

        That "most children respond better when they feel like they are in control of their actions" has always rang true for me, a notably stubborn and headstrong kid (if you can believe that).

        Great Hub and I'll be referring to this when I have a child of my own :)

      • shea duane profile image

        shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

        For 2 years, my son gave up his lunch to a nasty boy who he thought was his friend. Thank goodness that family moved!

      • ktrapp profile image

        Kristin Trapp 6 years ago from Illinois

        My children are a bit older than yours but I always told them that they don't have to be friends with everyone, but they should be friendly.

        But these friendship/not-wanting friendship issues become more difficult for children to manage when they have their own cell phones. Everyone that they give their number to (which is usually everyone) now has 24/7 access into their lives unless parents are careful to set limits.

      • INFJay profile image

        Jay Manriquez 6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

        Excellent hub! All my children are grown and now dealing with these same issues. Some have made better choices than others and a few are just plain toxic. Now I hope my parenting will help my children deal with the good and bad friendships they have as adults.