It's a great feeling knowing your kids have good friends surrounding them. And then you meet one you don’t like at all. Here are 5 friendly ways to cope when you simply can't stand who your child is hanging out with.
When I was struggling with infertility and dreaming of becoming a mom, I promised myself I’d welcome everything and anything that parenting entailed—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Twenty-some years and eight kids later, I got what I asked for (and then some!) and have truly never looked back.
One aspect of parenting I hadn’t thought much about were the friendships my kids would make throughout their childhood. I was more focused on embracing their newborn days, celebrating milestones like talking and walking, their first day of school, what type of students they would be (brilliant, of course!), and how I would treasure cheering them on at spelling bees, school concerts, and sporting events. I completely overlooked the monumental impact that their neighborhood, community, and school friends would have on their (and my) everyday lives.
But that all changed the moment we started mingling with their young friends in places like the park or playground. And once they began attending nursery school and kindergarten, I learned quickly that playdates would become extremely important and almost as much of a staple in their lives as their favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Friendships, I learned quickly, would be the center of much of their universe, and therefore would also become an important piece of my parenting world. Childhood friendships ebb and flow into our kid’s lives as they grow and mature. My children have been fortunate to make some wonderful, long-lasting relationships through the years, as well as acquaintances that were either temporary or that they outgrew for various reasons. My kid’s friendships are an extension of their lives, and it’s comforting to know they have special connections with people who make them laugh, spur them on when life hands them lemons, enjoy their company, and can share their deepest secrets with.
It really is a great feeling to know your kids have good friends surrounding them until you meet one that you don’t like at all. So now what?
We can’t necessarily choose our kid’s friends, especially as they get older and become more independent in their tween and teen years, but we can choose how we’re going to handle how we react to these friendships. Here are five friendly ways to cope when you simply don’t like who your child is hanging out with.
- Ask Yourself: "Why the Dislike?"
- Keep Your Opinion to Yourself
- Get to Know the Kid
- Think Down the Line
- Intervene when Necessary
Let's explore these tactics a little deeper.
1. Ask Yourself: "Why the Dislike?"
Your daughter recently introduced a new friend to the mix and although you politely interacted with her as they did homework at the kitchen island, you secretly hoped this would be the first and last time she ever hung out with your kid again. Sometimes it’s a gut reaction, a little inner-gnaw that tells you there’s something about this budding friendship that just doesn’t feel right. It’s important to listen to your intuition, but it’s also best not to be too judgmental without exploring things a little further.
Be honest with yourself—is it her mother, who happens to be a bit of a bossy pants in the PTA meetings and someone you really don’t like, therefore you figure this girl will be pushy with your daughter? Is it her mop of red tresses that turns you off (a reminder of your husband’s college sweetheart)? Did she not say thank you when you served her those homemade cookies warm from the oven? Allow the kid a chance if it’s a reason that might be petty on your part.
If you feel it’s more than that, however, you’ll need to monitor the blossoming friendship a bit more closely so that you can coach your child appropriately if the relationship needs to be distanced a bit or even nipped in the bud.
2. Keep Your Opinions to Yourself
If after you’ve done a little soul-searching you still don’t like the friend, play it cool with your child and don’t prattle on about how much you can’t stand him. Obviously, this is all factored into age-appropriate relationships. If your three-year-old is new to a neighborhood playgroup, and there’s one kid in the bunch that you have a dislike for, there’s no need to go to extremes. Let your child hang out with others in that group individually, or limit his interactions to only that playgroup setting without encouraging further bonding time with that particular child outside of that timeframe.
But when we’re talking about your 10-year-old son’s new buddy on the baseball team that makes your skin crawl, keep your opinions to yourself. The last thing you want to do is verbally berate another person that your child values as a friend. If the situation warrants a discussion, however, you can plant seeds for your son to think about. For example, if his new teammate purposely hits your kid with the ball when he’s pitching to him in your backyard, then calls him a wuss because your son flinches at the 40 MPH whack, you might say to your son, “It seems as though your new friend David likes to pitch. He must be working on his aim because you seemed to take a lot of balls to your wrist and knees for nearly every ball he threw. Some of those had to hurt. Maybe a batting cage would be safer the next time you two get together.”
Your son is smart enough to know David was not playing fair, but instead of you berating the kid’s behavior, you got your point across. Now your kid can think about how he can handle it on his own.