Navigating the parenting world is tough business! Once we learn as parents that we can’t wrap our kids up in bubble wrap and protect them from hurt and disappointment, we learn that one of the most challenging issues we face is what to do when your child has a frenemy or a “bad friend,” that is, a peer who doesn’t have a son or daughter’s best interest in mind. Maybe this person is unkind, dishonest, or a bully. No matter what the specific circumstance, this individual is a negative influence and may even be causing emotional or physical harm. But can how a parent handle this? We can’t always fight our kids’ battles for them, and as they get older, they have more and more choice of who they spend their time with. Still, there are some important steps and strategies that can be taken to help make the situation better. Here are a few strategies for what to do when your child has a bad friend:
Take A Good Look At Yourself
The first step is to recognize that you view the situation through a lens of your own history and experiences. In other words, you might have a slightly different perspective because of your past. Are you particularly sensitive to what is going on because you were once bullied? Maybe the bad friend reminds you of a negative peer you yourself once had. Are you projecting your own insecurities onto your child? Look at yourself, and determine whether it might be your issue, not your child’s.
Set Some Boundaries
If you’ve realized that it’s not your issue, that there really is a problem to be solved, then it might be time to set some boundaries with your child. Let him/ her know what boundaries, or personal rules, are all about. For example, you can say something like, “remember that it’s not okay for anyone to hit you,” or “other kids aren’t allowed to be mean to you at school.” Model what boundary setting looks like, and then if the problem continues unresolved, you as the parent can step in and speak to the mom or dad of the other child.
Teach About Friendship
This is an opportunity for you to teach your child what a true friend is. Sit him/ her down and explain that a friend is someone you trust, someone who is kind to you, and someone who wants you to do good things. If it’s helpful, you can go through examples highlighting what is and isn’t a true friend. For instance, a friend will say kind things to you, but someone who is mean or insulting isn’t being a friend. Bring up the topic of boundaries again as is appropriate.
Create A Loving Home
One of the most difficult parts of being a parent is that we cannot choose our kids’ friends for them! They naturally gravitate toward certain groups of people, and unfortunately sometimes that can include individuals who may not be the best influence. I encourage you to work to create a home environment in which your children know they are loved and valued. While peers and other pressures may work to tear them down, it is our responsibility to build them up. This isn’t to say that we coddle them all the time or shield them from responsibility or difficulty, but that at the end of the day, they know they have a safe place to come home to.