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Choosing Good Friends

Question

Our 8 year old son is overall a good kid, but he has a good friend that brings out bad behavior when they're together. Our son recognizes that his friend can be a bad influence at times, and at one point said that he stopped playing with him at recess because he was mean to another friend, but they were back to playing together in about a week. What can we do to help our son make good friend choices without dictating who he can or cannot play with?

Answer

You hit the nail on the head - you cannot dictate who your child is friends with, so how do you help guide him in making friends? It's as simple as holding him accountable. It's important to learn that the "he made me do it" excuse isn't acceptable. A friend may be a bad influence, but the choice to engage in behavior is ultimately your son's. So, when he makes a poor choice, give him a consequence. Also make it very clear that he will be held accountable for the actions of the group, even if he didn't actively participate. For example, your son is playing with a group of boys that decides to pick on another child. Your son doesn't say anything to the bullied child, but he doesn't leave the group or defend the bullied child. Instead he stands quietly supporting the actions of his friends. In this instance he is an accessory and will receive a consequence just as if he were the one bullying. Also, listen to your son. When he shares about his day, provide small bits of knowledge with leading questions. "How did that make you feel?" "How could you respond next time?" This allows your son to work through peer pressure and come to his own resolutions. By allowing your son to problem solve, rather than giving advice, he is much more likely to follow through.

Let us know how it goes,

Trinity Jensen
Certified Leadership Parent Coach

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