My 12-year-old son has a circle of good friends, but suddenly another boy has joined the group. My son has had problems with this boy in the past. This boy has regularly been mean to my son, but my son says they have reached a sort of “peace agreement.” I don’t want to get involved, but I really don’t want my son to spend time with this boy. Should I do anything?
Dear I Don’t Think So,
Trying to protect your son from unnecessary abuse is not being overprotective. Perhaps the other boy will honor his side of the peace treaty. Perhaps not. You would simply rather not take that chance.
However, convincing your son of the potential danger is another issue. One of the toughest lessons for a parent to learn is – never criticize your child’s friends in front of your child. It has a very odd effect on your child. S/he says to her/himself – “These are my friends, if my parents think that they are no good, it also means they think that I am no good.”
You certainly didn’t say that, but that’s what they hear. The “Experts” say – “Criticize their friend (even if what you say is TRUE), and you’ve made them a friend for life.”
So how DO you separate your children from less than desirable companions?
A few ways:
- Limit the amount of time that they are allowed to spend together. That depends, of course, on their age and whether or not they are classmates.
- Insist that the only way they can spend free time together is in your home. It puts you more in control of the situation.
- If you ever witness the other child misbehaving, in this case taunting your son, ask your son – “How did you feel when he did that?Did it make you feel bad? Yeah, me too.” Hopefully he will realize he doesn’t need to be with that boy.
- Next time he asks – “Can I invite Johnny over to play?”Tell him, “Nah, pick another friend.” After a few times, hopefully, he will get the message.
Your child’s friends are a very important ingredient in developing your child’s self-esteem. It is wise to make sure that he surrounds himself with good people who make HIM feel good about HIM.