Why Kids Choose the Friends They Do

What should you do if you don’t like your child’s friends? It’s a sticky
situation, but parenting author, Maggie Stevens, says parents need to learn
how to accept their child’s friends. Knowing why kids choose the friends
they do, can help.

Do you remember when your mom and dad warned you to stay away from
certain kids? And then maybe pushed you to make friends with others? Now
that you are a parent I’ll bet you find yourself doing that same thing–mostly
without success.

Between the ages of 5 and 12, making friends is one of the most important
missions of childhood – a social skill that will endure throughout their lives.
Developmentally, school-age children are ready to form more complex
relationships. They become increasingly able to communicate both their
feelings and their ideas. At this age they are no longer so bound to the family
or so concerned mostly about themselves. Friends are important because
they share with one another the pleasures and frustrations of childhood.

Choosing friends

A number of factors can come into play as your youngster selects his friends.
If he feels good about himself, and if he has been loved and respected within
the family, he is more likely to make good choices of friends. If you and your
spouse relate to each other well, and if your child has caring and supportive
relationships with his brothers and sisters, he will have seen and experienced
positive examples of how people can relate, and he will carry these
impressions over into his own friendships, including the friends he chooses.
On the other hand, if those family experiences have not been supportive and
confidence-boosting, he is likely to seek out peers who have similar types of
troubles. Make sure your home environment is healthy.

There is a reason children choose the friends they do. As a parent, it is
helpful to be aware of what these reasons are and why your child chooses
them. Sometimes they pick friends who have personality traits they desire.
For example:

Personality Trait Why This is Enticing

Fun Seekers———Use it to improve their happiness level

Popular—————-Raise their own status with others

Gregarious————Help them to lose their own shyness

Smart——————-Makes them feel smarter or help with their

Funny——————-Others want to be around or make them laugh

Cute older brother—Date to the prom

Negative influence—Rebel against their parents

Once you understand why your child has chosen a particular friend, take
some time to help your child understand why he has chosen a particular
friend. This is will also give you an opportunity to discuss his own values,
feelings, and behaviors.

Healthy friendships

A healthy friendship is one in which both children are on an equal footing.
Neither child should dominate the other to make all the decisions on what
activities to pursue. They should share and make an effort to please each

Negative peer influences

Dealing with negative peer influences is a challenge, but there are solutions.
Some parents may demand that their own youngster stop spending time with
this “bad influence,” but this is not the best strategy. Your kids have to find
out for themselves who their true friends are and who are people that are
using them or just passing through their lives. If you interfere too often,
you’ll lose the ability to guide them and you’ll likely make it harder for them
to make critical decisions that they need to as they’ll be rebelling against you
when choosing their friends rather than using their own judgment.

At the same time, do not hesitate to express your displeasure over the less
desirable playmates. Speak calmly and rationally when you explain why you
would prefer that your child not spend too much time with them. Let him
know the natural consequences if he ends up adopting the unacceptable
behavior that you have seen in these other children, while still not absolutely
forbidding the friendship. This approach will teach your youngster to think
more logically and assume responsibility of his actions, and show that you
trust his growing capacity to make the right decisions.

Encourage Self Expression

You want your child to enjoy healthy friendships, but you also want her to
have a mind of her own. Teach your child that sometimes friends can
disagree, or have different interests, beliefs, or tastes in clothing, music, and
hobbies. Encourage her to seek her own path, and give her the confidence to
say “no” to a friend whose trying to lead her down the wrong path.
Your child’s preoccupation with people and events outside the family is
natural and you should respect her boundaries, but it is imperative to remain
actively involved in your child’s life. Too often, peers end up filling the
vacuum left by parents who are overly critical or largely absent.

So what is a parents role? Stay involved, but remember: You would never
want your child to choose your friends, so do not attempt to pick the people
your child will associate with

To ask questions, join a discussion board or schedule Maggie for a
workshop, visit www.parentfix.com Parent Fix by
Maggie Stevens is available at: Deseret Book, Barnes and Noble, www.amazon.com

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