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Your Teen Has a Friend You Don’t Like, 11 Things You Can Do About It

Jul22

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It’s bound to happen. Your kid is going to make a friend that you don’t like. What do you do? How do you know whether to step in or stand back? Your kids’ friendships are a tough thing to navigate at any age, but the older your kids get more the challenging it becomes as a parent.

When my kids were younger it was easier to keep them away from kids that I didn’t like. Most playdates were arranged in advance and I found it easy to have other plans.

My objections to some of their early friends had more to do with the way kids were being parented than the kids themselves. All kids do rotten things once in awhile, my own kids horrified me with their behavior on more than one occasion, but the way the parents chose to handle it, or not handle it as the case may be, was usually the deal breaker.

During the elementary and middle school years, it is easier to monitor friendships. No one can drive themselves anywhere yet. They are young enough where you do meet the parents when you do drop offs for parties or sleepovers. They are much more likely at this age to tell you every last detail about their friends. And they actually still really care about your opinion and don’t yet think you are the stupidest person to ever exist on the planet.

Teenagers are the polar opposite of younger kids. They are notorious for disagreeing with their parents for no other reason than they want to assert themselves as autonomous beings. The opinions their friends hold matter more to them than yours, at least in the short term.

So what do you do when your teen chooses a friend you don’t like? Here are some things to keep in mind:

1: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Ask yourself if what you don’t like about the friend really matters. Is it the way (s)he dresses? Is it a lack of good manners? Is your child getting into trouble with this friend? Once you identify this, you will have a better idea of how to proceed.

My son has a friend with atrocious manners. I found that using humor and gentle guidance has helped this kid in particular learn what is acceptable in our house. It also provided a good opportunity for me to talk to my own kids about how to behave in someone else’s home.

2: Trust your teenager to make good decisions.
As long as your child isn’t getting into trouble with their friend and your dislike is not based on anything concrete, like say a drug habit or crimminal history, let your child make their own choices in who they chose as friends. Keep a close eye, but believe in your kid to make good decisions.

3: Is it just a case of normal teenager rebellion?
Every time your child gets into trouble it won’t be the fault of some other child. Remember that your child is not perfect. There may be times when he is the bad influence.

4:  Keep the lines of communication open.
The best way to influence your teenager’s choices is to not put blanket restrictions upon them which could cause them to rebel, but to build a foundation of trust so that you can talk to them in a non-judgmental way about your concerns. Ask questions that get your teenager thinking.  When my son recently got into trouble because of his friend I didn’t rant on and on about how much I disliked the kid. Rather I asked him pointed questions about the friendship. Is this how friends treat each other? Do friends encourage each other to do things that they know are wrong? Do friends ditch each other when things get hard or do they stand up for each other?

He was able to answer those questions himself without me having to point out the obvious.

5: Make your place somewhere kids want to hang out. Trust me this is a tough one for me because I also have other kids and having extra kids in the house beyond my own sometimes drives me batty. But better here than other places. I have also discovered that the kids who are the real troublemakers don’t want to hang out anywhere near parents. So they will tend to go away and find other kids who are equally less supervised. That makes for a win-win situation as the friendship with the kid you don’t like will stagnate.

This also will give you the opportunity to get to know the friends. As in the case of the kid with the bad manners I mentioned above, once you get to know a kid you might change your mind.

6: Be like a fly on the wall when the friend is over.
I have found the best way to listen to the conversations my kids and their friends are having is to make snacks and walk in and out of the area replenishing the snacks and drinks without saying anything that would call attention to myself. Oh, the things you hear.

7: Make sure you don’t turn everything into a life lesson.
If you do this every time your teenager tells you a story pretty soon they won’t tell you anything. Laugh with them. And if you can’t do that, laugh at them. If something they say causes minor concern, wait and bring it up later under a different context.

8: Pay attention to what other people think.
The best judge of character is often other kids. Listen to what your kids’ other friends have to say about the kid you don’t like. When three of my son’s friends– that I know well and genuinely like– expressed that they didn’t like a particular kid it was a red flag for me. When I asked them why they all gave me vague, non-committal teenage answers, but it signaled to me that I wasn’t completely off base with my concerns.

9: Know when to hold your tongue.
If the friendship shows signs of falling apart, don’t point out how you were right all along. They certainly don’t want to hear “I told you so” anymore than we as adults want to hear that when we make mistakes. Be supportive of your child and their feelings without bad-mouthing the friend. If he says he is going to hang out with different friends that day, don’t say thank god you are getting away from that manipulative spawn of Satan.

10: Know when it is time to speak up
If you decide that you do need to get involved sit your teenager down and give them clear concrete reasons. Focus on the impact the friendship is having on your teenager, rather than spouting off a list of things you dislike about the other kid. Are their grades slipping? Has (s)he given up other friendships? Have you caught her/him lying? Has s/he gotten into serious trouble?

Don’t forbid the friendship unless you absolutely have no other choice. Teens will dig in their heels and the friendship will most likely end up lasting longer than it might have otherwise. If only so they can prove to you that they are capable of making their own decisions.

11:  Know when to put your foot down.
Let them save face. Give your teenager a way out. I had to do this recently.  I spelled out very clearly what exactly I meant by not being friends with one particular kid anymore. Yes, he can talk to him at school. Yes, he can eat lunch with him or sit next to him in class. But, no he may not go to this kid’s house. No, he may not come to our house. No, he may not drive him anywhere or be driven anywhere by him.

And hey, if all else fails there is always military boarding school. Heh.

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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9 Responses to “Your Teen Has a Friend You Don’t Like, 11 Things You Can Do About It”

  1. Grammy Jul 22 at 4:49 pm Reply Reply

    Every single item on your list is perfect, Chris. I think sometimes people need permission from others to admit their kids aren’t perfect, and this helps.

    Your advice in number 11 is critical — don’t ever try to put restrictions on a kid that you can’t enforce. Many years ago, when my daughter was in junior high school, there was one girl that I dreaded having around. Poor kid had no supervision from home and was pretty much an all-around trouble-maker. When she violated one of our (very few) concrete rules of behavior at our house, I took the opportunity to put the friendship in a place where it could die.

    I knew I couldn’t prevent the girls from being around each other at school, so didn’t try. I just said “You can’t go to her house and she can’t come here. You know the reason for that.” Neither was old enough to drive or have friends who drove, so it was easy. Without the ability to walk to each other’s home and “hang out” there wasn’t much appealing about the friendship and it withered.

  2. TK Goforth Jul 31 at 8:27 am Reply Reply

    I found this post via MomInfluential. This is SOOOOOO good! I am at the beach with my girlfriend and read this to her. We had a pretty good discussion. She and I both have teenagers, so we have some GOOD discussions comparing notes They typically have chosen well regarding friends, but when the hormones kicked in they have a tendency to become the children we didn’t know we had. We have not had to have to put our feet down, but your points are well-taken in regards to ANYTHING we are dealing with regarding our kids. I think I could use a little bit of help on Number 7. Sheesh.

    Thank you, Chris! I’ll be following your blog!

  3. Tina Aug 05 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    Great post! I hope I can remember it in 5 years wen my oldest hits this age–I know that’ll come fast!

  4. edj Aug 05 at 5:00 pm Reply Reply

    Dang! You’re telling me NOT to call my kids’ friends the “manipulative spawn of Satan”? Sigh. How about “whiny pest from the pit of Hell”? Better? Or not?

    Great post though, overall. Other than that.

  5. Amy Aug 05 at 5:58 pm Reply Reply

    Lots of great points here!  The one I love the most and that has had the best result in our home is #5 – Be the House Where the Friends Hang Out.  Absolutely the way to go.  I know it is a pain and expensive!  Teenage boys eat a LOT! But, you get to know their friends and you get to know what the heck they are doing. Most kids really just want to be together with their buddies.  If there is no trouble to get into, they won’t get into trouble.  At our house they all seem to have a grand old time and nobody is drinking, smoking or taking drugs.  They are playing games outside, making a lot of noise, watching movies and playing video games.  They also talk.  And you get to listen as Chris pointed out, while simply refreshing food and drink.  And as they start to drive, I am good with the kids sleeping over on occasional weekends, as long as they actually sleep.  And they do. And no, I don’t let them have opposite sex sleep overs either. The other thing that is helpful is when the girlfriend is over at our house.  Sometimes it is the girlfriend that you might not really approve of too…However, if she is welcome (or he as they case may be), then you will also get to know her and sometimes you will find that you might not like her simply because she also wasn’t raised well.  But she actually might be a perfectly good kid.  If you are around and show caring, you will have a positive influence.  It worked for us.  Sort of a way to turn lemons into lemonade….Also they are less likely to end up in compromising situations when they are at your house vs. god knows where….

  6. Cy Aug 06 at 1:07 am Reply Reply

    Great list! Chris–you’re learning so much! I’m so proud of you! (ha-ha!) I remember one kid who had a rep for being annoying; even his own parents seemed to think so. My husband and I got to know him at our house and he turned out to be the nicest kid! Our son isn’t really friends with him anymore and I still miss that kid! Another kid we initially judged by his appearance also turned out to be a great kid. You have to pay attention and be open-minded. When is your book coming out, woman?!

  7. angela michelle Aug 06 at 5:26 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with making your house the hang-out place because the kids you don’t want your kids to be friends with probably don’t want to come to your house. In addition, my teens are embarrassed to bring inappropriate friends to our house. 

  8. Diana Mar 18 at 10:43 pm Reply Reply

    I tried all that. I was the house that the kids all came to. About 6 or 7 of them, counting my son. They’re all 16 or 17. I even let certain ones sleep over some weekends, and yes I got to know them. BUT, I live in an apartment house, we have the upstairs apartment. I had a table set up in the basement for them to hang out. It really hasn’t worked out because it is noisy, they don’t clean up after themselves, They’ve been good about smoking their cigarettes outside, but sometimes they’ve smoked other stuff outside, and just last night, I found beer in the basement and a can of beer up in my bathroom. I took the table apart downstairs and now that’s over. They’re all minors, I can’t have them drinking. I’ve been good to these kids, let them sleep over, fed them and drive them home…. more than their parents. But, I’ve had to stop, I’ve had enough.

  9. Diana Mar 18 at 10:57 pm Reply Reply

    I’m adding to the above post. Also, my husband isn’t well, and we’re dealing with that. Having our son’s friends over was a nice diversion….I’ve always liked having my sons’ friends around. It always worked out with our other sons. We are dealing with a lot – and we have gotten to know and like some of the kids, but their behavior lately is taking away from that and the kids have to go…..I can’t have them around anymore. Too stressful….they don’t behave. Our son wants to be friends with these kids, but some of them are getting into trouble, my son is with them a lot, and he’s going to get into trouble too. He’s almost 17. I would like him to make better decisions. He’s going to have to live and learn the hard way perhaps. I’m not good at keeping my cool sometimes and we had a heated discussion tonight about some stunt his friends pulled the other night that got the police involved, and my son was with them. He’s one stupid stunt away from getting into trouble himself. It’s very difficult.

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