Should Parents Choose Their Child's Friends?

Should Parents Choose Their Child's Friends?

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.

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  • Nicola K.

    Totally agree with this person as interfereing in your kids friendships can very easily send them on wrong path these days with peer pressure being strong these days and an well send them totally on wrong path. Strong believer in letting them make own mistakes to a certain extent although there may be some times you may have to step in to try keep them on the level path can only advise not rule their life. I am terrified what life my daughter is going into knowing what I do now and what path she is going to follow. Can only advise her from time she starts nursery next year and what she chooses is her own doing. Will try hardest to keep her on straight as she has so many good friends the now but neer know when school starts whats going to happen. xx

    • Emily W.

      Nope. My grandad did this to me and I hated him for it. If you think they have bad friends then let them find out and learn from their own mistakes.

      • Danielle C.

        If they were bad kids /bad influence then yes I have done.

        • Clare P.

          Nope as they get older you can't force friendships as long as my girls are happy and well behaved I don't mind

          • Lindsay R.

            I would never do this. I know a lot that do it based on if they are in with the "mums crowd". I used to have to drop my daughter off and run to work, therefore I wasn't in with the mums who could stand around making friends and chatting in the playground for ages, and I think because of this my daughter missed out.

          • Denise N.

            Parents socially engineering who their children play with will, without doubt, watch it backfire. I see it happen and it's beyond sad watching children unable to be themselves and learn about themselves. Sets them up to fail when they leave primary and there's no 'school gate' politics influencing child friendships too. Just let them grow and trust their own instinct on who THEY like. After all, isn't that what we adults do? I certainly know the type of person I don't like and find my way being polite with them because I've learnt how to. Plus, I do ASK my mum now what she thinks...and she's normally spot on with opinions which I use as a barometer. Yet she never influenced me as a child.

            • Kim W.

              Parents should just be grateful their children have friends- people who like them for them, people they connect with and share similarities with, people who help them grow. I hate this idea that some parents feel their children are too good for other children- horrible mentality!

              • Francesca B.

                Exactly! I've had comments like "Oh why do you want them for your daughter's friend?!" Erm, if my daughter chose them as a friend and they treat each other the same/are nice to each other then that's why!

                • Danielle C.

                  Some people don't want their children playing /hanging around with trouble makers Bullies, are you saying if your kids befriended someone like that you would be fine with it and not care because your child wants to be friends with thus person?

                  • Kelly A.

                    I agree Danielle, my daughter's best friend was horrible..... I let it be for over a year untill she came home every day telling me lots of different horrible stuff (she was 8/9) I ended up going to the school & telling them all about it!!! I also explained to my daughter about it, finally she went in to school one day & played with her "old" friends & has never looked back (she has made up with her old bestie but they are just friends now not best friends lol) its so much nicer.

                  • Kerrie C.

                    Most definitely not. Kids should make there own choices.!!

                    • Lola R.

                      If a parent decides their child's friends then how do they expect that child to make friends in the future. "Oh but then they'd pick the right friends". The RIGHT friends? There's no telling at a young age whether a child is going to be a good influence or a bad influence. What you're doing by choosing your child's friends is teaching them to segregate people based upon whatever reason they choose. This in time could lead to mindless sheep like behaviour that copies whoever are the right friends, and leaves the people that they reject thinking they are bad people. Depression, suicide, bullying, to name but a few things that happen as an effect of this stupid choice! But the worst thing? You're taking away that beautiful child like innocence that sees everybody as equals! If there were more people who thought like that then maybe there would be a lot less problems in this world...

                      • Danielle M.

                        I think it depends why you are not a fan. Also if you tell a child they can't do or see someone it's only going to make them want to do it more and lie to you. I think you would be better to just see how it pans out and if this friend was that bad as they get older hopefully your child would work that out for themselves

                        • Bunny

                          I now kids should pick their own friends