What do you do when your child is hanging out with the “wrong crowd”? In this segment of Parent to Parent, Julie Ogata from ParentMap has some tips for parents who want to help their children build positive friendships.
How do you even approach this topic?
Before you even say anything to your child, you need to realize a few things. First, “birds of a feather flock together.” So, if you criticize your child’s friends, your child is likely to take that as a personal attack on him or her because they identify themselves through those friends.
Also, you might think, “Well, my child would never do anything bad…it’s the influence of this wrong crowd.” But, you have do be honest with yourself and realize the reason your child hangs out with that crowd is that she’s probably similar to them. There’s something she likes, maybe it’s the way they dress, act or the music they listen to.
Your child is also trying to navigate adolescence and become an adult. They are trying to form their own opinions and become independent. Part of this learning process is figuring out who are true friends. So you also need to be patient.
How much influence do kids have on each other?
Experts say it’s not as much influence as parents think. A study was done on peer pressure at the University of Michigan. The conclusion was that most teens don’t feel pressured by friends when it comes to school achievement, drugs and sex. Many studies have shown that family and parents are still the most influential force on a child.
When is the right time to step in?
Definitely when you see your child’s self esteem being hurt, grades are falling or if your child is doing something illegal such as drinking alcohol or drugs.
The tricky part is stepping in and addressing concerns without condemning your child’s friends. That could alienate your child and send them back to their friends for support.
"Wrong crowd" tips for parents:
Talk about issues rather than the friends, and use specific examples. Say, "I notice you're swearing more lately. That's not acceptable and I expect it to stop.
Explore the attraction of the friends. Say, "What do you like about John?" or, "How does Jane make you feel when you're around her?" It can help you address concerns later if you understand the attraction.
Set limits and use structure. Say, "If you cut school with John, you will not be able to see him for a week." You've set a limit. If your child doesn't meet this expectation, he also knows the consequence up front.
Know the Friends:
Get to know the friends. Invite them to your home so you can talk to them and understand them. Also, get to know the parents. You can keep better tabs on your child or you might find out this "wrong crowd" is not so bad after all.