Do You Dislike the Parents of Your Child's Friend?
Once your child is in school, it's difficult to control their friendships. Mighty Mommy tackles a sticky situation.
When our kids are toddlers and pre-schoolers, we as parents have the most control over their social circles. By the time they reach school age, however, this can turn on a dime. Now they are out of our parenting grasp for six hours or more each day and have the opportunity to start forming their own friendships based on the children they interact with in their classroom or perhaps outside at recess, not just our own friends’ kids.
There’s an expression you may have heard, “You can pick your friends but not your family.” Well, once your kids start making their own friends, we need to take that quote one step further—“Your kids can pick their friends but you can’t pick their parents.” In other words, there are going to be plenty of instances when your child is friends with another kid whose parents are not your cup of tea.
Take this scenario: your daughter announces that she and the town treasurer’s daughter are BFF. Before you can be happy that she has someone to giggle in the hallways with, your thoughts jump back to the time when that girl’s mom (yes, your town treasurer!) scolded you for bouncing a check in front of a ton of people (one being your dentist!) before you had the chance to explain that your purse had been stolen and you had to freeze your checking account. How could a person capable of causing such shame on another human being actually have children?
Before you start foaming at the mouth and declaring to your daughter that she is not allowed to breathe the same air as her new friend, stop, take a deep breath, and look at the bigger picture.
Consider What’s Best for Your Child
When younger school-aged and tween kids start developing friendships outside of your circle, especially with a family where you might not be crazy about the parents, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact, it can be good for both you and your child when you consider the following:
If the reason you dislike the parents of your child’s friend is because of a personality conflict, or you don’t agree with their political affiliation, or you simply can’t stand the fact that once upon a time the mom was Miss New York and still likes to wear her crown to dinner at PTO meetings, it would be best for everyone if you take the higher road and allow your child’s friendship a chance to foster. A trusting, long-lasting friendship is not easy to come by, and perhaps this particular relationship could be something very special to the children involved, so why not step back and let them hang out together.
The beauty of older children getting together is that as parents we don’t have to be involved in their actual play dates. As long as you have communication either by phone or in person when you drop your child off as to what they will be doing, if they’ll be driven anyplace, left with a babysitter instead of the parents, etc., you can monitor the situation from a “close distance” and have very little contact with the parent you’re not crazy about.
It’s tempting to badmouth the parent in front of your own children, but don’t. This puts your child in a socially awkward predicament, especially if they like their friend’s mom. Most parents want the same thing for their kids—to be liked and accepted by others—and that includes their friend’s parents. Think of how you’d like your daughter to act in this situation. If her friend’s mom goes out of her way to make the girls a yummy snack and get them set up to work on their homework project, wouldn’t you hope your daughter would be appreciative? This is a reflection on you, her role model, as to how to act when she’s away from home. At the same time, you’re allowing your child the chance for growth! It certainly takes some effort on your part, but these types of situations are teachable moments for all of you.
When to Intervene
If, however, the reason you have a concern with your child’s friend’s parents is due to something more than “you just can’t stand how they dress,” or something of a more concerning or dangerous matter is involved, you need to go with your gut instinct and be open with your child as to why you feel this way.
For example, my son was getting very friendly with a new boy in his junior high school, and the father was a hunter. He was also a single parent and was not home until well after dinner each evening. We had heard from other neighbors that the guns he used for his hunting trips were not locked up. Two teenage boys and guns floating around the house did not make for a good outcome. When my husband and I asked the boy’s father about this situation, he didn’t deny it, and told us it was his business as to how he stored things in his house.
Let’s just say that was our signal that our son would never, ever be hanging out with that child in his house regardless of whether the father was home or not. We allowed the friend to come to our house, but that was it. Eventually, their friendship fizzled out, but in a situation such as this one, we were very honest with our son and although we never put his friend’s father down, we couldn’t jeopardize our boy’s safety.
Suppose your child starts up a friendship with a family that has completely different values than you. Perhaps your daughter has befriended a new student who admits that she hates going home after school because she feels uncomfortable with her mother’s new boyfriend. This is a situation in which you need to step in and either discourage the friendship altogether, or allow the friendship to continue only when the kids are under your supervision.
Remain Cordial for the Sake of Your Child
The bottom line is that parents know their own kids best, and if you feel the friendship that is developing with the child of someone you care not to be around is healthy for your child, then find a way to reach out and at least have an amicable line of communication so that everyone is on the same page. You don’t have to go out to dinner with these other parents or invite them over for coffee, you simply need to be respectful of one another and remember that your kids deserve to have a chance to develop their own friendships as long as a there’s no threat of physical or moral harm.