'Wrong' friends. What now?
Your child is meeting up with his friends more often outside, and you don't know exactly who he or she is hanging out with. Do you suspect that your child is hanging out with some "wrong" friends? How can you deal with it when your child chooses a friendship that you as a parent can not really support? These are probably the reasons and this is how you can deal with it…
Having friends is important for almost every child. And with age, the importance of friendships only increases. At preschool age, friends are especially important as playmates and by the end of primary school, friendships mean so much more to children. Within friendships children learn many social skills, they acquire knowledge of people, learn to form an opinion and to stand up for themselves. A child also learns a lot about himself within a friendship, who am I and what I stand behind, and how I express that to others. Friends naturally provide emotional support, help them to face new situations (together you are strong) and can give a child a lot of self-confidence.
But what happens if the child hangs out with friends who don't suit him and express negative influences on him?
Who are those "wrong" friends?
Parents often differ in opinion about what constitutes a 'wrong friend' and this also depends on the situation. One parent may see a friend as "wrong" because he has a big mouth, while another parent may see this as just some undesirable behavior. Skipping is an example where parents sometimes agree that it is a 'wrong' friendship.
One child can also deal with the wrong influences of friends better than the other child. Parents of a child who is very impressionable are more likely to view a friendship as wrong than parents who know that their child can withstand some peer pressure and not be coaxed into unwanted behavior.
In general it can be said that a friendship is considered 'wrong' when a child behaves under the influence of a friend or ends up in situations that the parents consider as undesirable. It is important here that the parents are convinced that their child would not have ended up in this situation or would not have shown this behavior without this friend.
When a child doesn't want to talk much about the friends he or she has and when friends never come to the child's home, not even to pick up the child or something, this is a signal that the parents should be a little extra vigilant about these friendships.
What are the reasons to attract to the "wrong "friends?
In general, a child does not consciously choose 'wrong' friends. A bond develops between two children and along the way the friendship moves in a direction that the parents consider less desirable.
The attraction to the well-spoken, feisty child is strong – especially for children who are a little more reserved themselves. The insecure child looks up to the tougher child and wants to emulate this child. Often in the hope of becoming more daring or becoming more popular. And the tough child needs the insecure child to maintain his status and also experiences that the somewhat insecure child is easy to control. Insecure children can be very sensitive to peer pressure and therefore easily influenced. This creates an interaction between these children and a friendship can arise.
Sometimes we also see wrong or missing social skills in children who enter into 'wrong' friendships. A child who does not manage to cope socially is also more impressionable than a child who manages to cope socially.
The wish to oppose the parents and their norms and values is also a reason for this choice: "I do what I want" The child then chooses precisely those children of whom the child knows that they will do things that the parents disapprove. There is then a question of consciously choosing 'wrong' friends.
Incidentally, it is often not so much a question of a 'wrong' friend, but more of a group of young people who stir each other up and, under the influence of each other, show behavior that is not desirable, behavior that they would never show as individuals. In these situations, parents have to face that their child is just as much among these 'wrong' friends and negatively affects other children as well.
What can you do as a parent?
The simplest thing would be if you could just ban it. But of course it's not that simple. In fact, it is precisely the things that are prohibited that are made even more interesting. Prohibition often backfires. The 'wrong' boyfriend becomes more interesting because of the ban and a ban often also ensures that the child has the feeling that he has to stand up for the friend in question. In addition, if your child is already really friends with this person, he may see it as a personal attack on his friend and start protecting him or her. You can also make sure that your child is silent about this person and that everything happens secretly. As a parent with a ban you also lose sight of the friendship. In many situations outside the home, contact with this 'wrong' friend is still possible and when the friendship is forbidden, the child will not tell you more about it.
But what do you do? It may sound very contradictory, but you actually achieve the most if you just talk openly with him.
Criticizing is a big "No go"! Talk about it, be clear and stay involved.
1. Don't criticize wrong friends too much
Try not to comment on everything, but of course you don't have to tolerate every action from your child's friend. If you continuously criticize that one bad friend, your child will feel called to defend him or her. And this ensures that the bond between them only gets stronger…
2. Talk about your child's feelings
Have a conversation about your child's friendship. What does your child like – or dislike – about his or her friend? Children themselves may also have mixed feelings about their friendships. That is why it is important that you discuss this, because in this way you can help your child to deal with these feelings.
For example, if your child indicates that he or she finds it annoying when the friend in question is rude to a teacher, you can conclude that this behavior exceeds a certain limit. During this conversation you can discuss how your child can best deal with these kinds of situations.
3. Be clear about boundaries within the family
It doesn't hurt to emphasize the boundaries in your family again - especially if you notice that your child is starting to lose them. For example, you can reiterate that truancy is not tolerated.
If you have clear boundaries at home, your child will sooner see that certain behavior of his or her friend is unacceptable. This will ultimately ensure that your child makes wise choices and does not get carried away by wrong figures.
4. Other friends
You could try giving your child the opportunity to meet more people. If he/she comes into contact with nicer people, say, then he will be able to see what disadvantages the 'wrong' friend has. For example, let him join a new (sports) club.
5. Stay involved and show confidence
The most valuable rule is probably that you should stay involved in your child's friendships and show confidence in him/her. Show interest, be honest (is the boyfriend really that impossible or is it more your biased idea?), ask for his opinion and share your opinion without attacking the boyfriend himself. Of course you can set your limits. Of course, just set limits on his behavior!
In addition, show your confidence in your child clearly. by following the other four tips, you show that you know he's going to make the right decision, that he gets it. Also trust yourself that you have given and explained everything so that your child will make the right decision.
Never hesitate to seek professional help if necessary.