How do you feel about your child's friends?
More specifically, if you felt your child had some – let's say 'unsavoury characters' – as buddies, would you keep your feelings to yourself or go so far as to actively discourage the friendship? If the latter, would that extend to excluding said friend from birthday parties and going out of your way to limit contact?
I read a headline somewhere recently about the number of parents who admit to disliking their child's friends. The gist was that parents who think their kids could do better when it comes to picking friends, generally think nothing of intervening in those relationships in a bid to put the brakes on them. Um, interfering, much?
This surprised me because I've always understood that my job as a parent is to equip my kids to make good decisions for themselves. You know, teach them the principles of how to choose friends wisely, and then stand back and let them learn life's lessons for themselves. Always ready to offer a guiding hand. of course, but ultimately willing to let my kid live his life without Mummy there controlling every choice.
Standing back like this isn't easy, of course, and I've wanted to steer my child away from a certain friend or towards a different social circle several times before now, but I've largely fought that urge to interfere and instead tried to let my child make his own decisions.
Now I'm no stranger to having strong opinions about my children's friends but I wouldn't dream of actually interfering in the relationships. And I'm fairly certain my pre-teens wouldn't take too kindly to me trying to tell them who they should or shouldn't be friends with. Maybe my views will change as they get older and I'll be more inclined to step in if my child falls in with a bad crowd or makes friends with kids whose influences on them might be truly harmful.
But here's the thing; allowing my child to choose his own friends without trying to take control of his social life hasn't done him any harm thus far. Quite the opposite in fact; he's formed wonderful, enduring friendships with several kids who I might not naturally have chosen to be his friends, and he's worked out for himself which kids are trouble or not to be trusted, and distanced himself on his own terms.
In the process, he's learned valuable life lessons and developed strong social skills. Had I stepped in and taken charge of his social life, I'm sure he'd have been deprived of those opportunities for growth.
That said, of course I'd step in if I felt my child were being led astray by his or her friends - but even then I'd proceed with caution. Why? Because I'm sure that meddling in my child's social life is just the sort of thing that would encourage him to keep me at arm's length and avoid talking to me about future problems with his friends or social life, should they develop.
And as a mum, one of my top priorities is keeping the lines of communication open between my kids and I, so that they feel they can come to me about anything at any time, without fearing my reaction or disapproval. Seeking to influence my child's friendships or letting them know that I don't exactly approve of their taste in mates isn't going to gain their trust - it's more likely to make them think twice about talking to me about her social life.
Ultimately, I'm strongly of the view that acting on your feelings about your child's friends is an unwise move. Instead of seeking to hold all the power over your child's friends and social interactions, why not try focusing your attention on helping your child develop the skills to make good choices?
Because one day you won't be there to point out the feckless friend or the mate who only ever calls when they want something. But if you equip your child to manage their own social life themselves, you'll be setting them up for life.
We'd love to hear what you think about whether parents should ever seek to choose their child's friends or influence their social life. Have you frozen out a friend you disapproved of, or would you never dream of interfering like this? Leave us a comment below or join the debate over on our Facebook page.