Picking your children’s friends – is it the right thing to do?

Have you ever heard that saying “you are who your friends are”?  Experts say attitudes have a way of rubbing off on people.  I think about this often when it comes to my kids and the people they spend their time with.

The majority of parents (myself included)  have a tendency to want their kids to have “good” friends.  By good I am not talking about ‘best’ friends, I am talking about good people.  People you feel are having a positive influence on your child.  Who wouldn’t want their children hanging around positive people?

Unfortunately statistics say kids who grow up in unfortunate homes having a higher chance of trouble as a teen.  Should we as parents discourage our kids from being friends with these unfortunate kids because it may ‘rub off’ on our kids?  After all, it is not the child’s fault that they are growing up in that home.  Experts say the probability that these kids will grow up in trouble will be much higher, but is there that possibility that our children will rub off on them?  Could our child have a positive influence on these kids?

All parents want the best for their kids. How do you define what is best?

Do you pick your children’s friends?


Jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas June 7, 2010 at 10:23 am

Hmm, good point. i have to admit i’ve limited my kids’ play time with a certain 2 new neighborhood kids because they are rough, wild and frankly always fighting. Then they were over one day and I thought about how their parents just split up and if I think the parents aren’t doing a good job with these two, that perhaps I have an opportunity to say positive, loving things to them – that I doubt they’re hearing much of at their 2 new homes. And offer kind advice about their fighting problem. And engage them in positive behaviors. I see them a lot differently now.
.-= Jeanne @ Inspiring Ideas´s last blog ..more 30th Birthday Party Ideas =-.

J. Is a Bird June 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm

The hope that you and your children will rub off on them out weighs whether or not they will rub off on your kids.

I think it’s your duty as a parent to let your children see all sides of life. Hoping they will pick “perfect” friends just isn’t realistic. Have a plan of action on how you will deal with less than perfect is what’s really needed.

The other day my son had a play date where both the mother of and the “date” himself behaved very badly. I let it play out because it wasn’t my place to interfere but afterwards I had a talk with my son about what happened, what was wrong about it and what would have been a better way to deal. Most importantly though I told him that I was proud of him and the way he behaves.

Lastly, I was one of the “unfortunate” children. I’m quite sure my friend’s parents wished they weren’t friends with me. But going over to my friends homes and seeing how a “normal” family lives was an invaluable experience. I encourage parents to let their children pick their own friends and you, as a parent, be an example not just to your children but to the kids they bring home as well.
.-= J. Is a Bird´s last blog ..A day in the garden. =-.

mommymommymommy June 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I have always taught my children that people will think that you act like the people with whom you associate. More for my 15 year old, but it is an important message.

If I saw a potential problem behavior-wise, I would limit contact to my home only. I would not judge a child based on the home life.

Besides, “good” kids may have loony toons for parents. Trust me, I have seen it.
.-= mommymommymommy´s last blog ..The Pantry Challenge…It’s Simple! =-.

Momma Drama June 7, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I like J. Is a Bird’s comment. Awesome.

Honestly, I would be frightened for my daughter to hang out with someone that has behavior problems because I would want to protect my child. I do however agree that children should see all aspects of life and I know I can’t shield them forever. Not to mention the mom in me wants to help the children that are acting out – I don’t think I would choose my child’s friends, but choose where they go. If one of their friend’s home life was difficult for them, I wouldn’t want my child in that environment, but I wouldn’t stop them from coming over to my house.
.-= Momma Drama´s last blog ..I’m an ISFJ =-.

Shell June 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Mine are still – preschool and younger- so basically, I choose their friends at this point by scheduling their playdates.

I do know that a child’s friends can greatly influence them. How to force the friendships I see as being good and stop the ones that I think are bad- well, I don’t really know that that is possible, but I can chose to be involved.

Motpg June 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

My two oldest have had friendships with problem kids and my oldest became one due to influence. These are the facts as I have lived them. You should not try to prevent the friendship, it doesn’t work. You can’t judge the child on their home life but only on their own behavior and they do deserve a chance. Both my older daughters have been badly influenced by problem friends to different degrees. For the most part the other kids do not seem to be influenced to do better and the kids themselves are sometimes victims of their circumstances and do not realize, believe or often even wish they could change it. Most of the ones we have been in contact with who seem to want to be better tend to give up quickly but there have been a few involved with my eldest daughter who got their lives together when they were older.

That said. I have seen My child walk out of my house with: a lovely young woman with beautiful manners, driving a nice car, who lives in a very upscale neighborhood and attends a prestigious private school, where she makes excellent grades and is involved with worthwhile activities; and come home so stoned she could hardly stand. I had assumed the best.
.-= Motpg´s last blog ..And Then He Said….. =-.

Blond Duck June 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm

My parents never chose my friends, but I knew when they dissaproved. And those friendships never lasted long!

kathy June 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

1. Whatever is forbidden can often become the most coveted thing/person in the world and nothing can keep your child away from it/him-her.
2. You can do the best you can with your child and “raise them right” and still they will/can/may make poor judgement calls from time to time. If they learn from the mistake, ok. If they don’t learn from the mistake – well, some people have to learn things the hard way.
3. No person is ever “perfect.” Even those from “good homes” can have Major Issues. Those from homes that might be considered “less than” can have their share of Major Issues, but also be the kids who are good influences.
4. You are still the major influence on your child’s life, at any age – keep lines of communication open, make sure they’re aware of any legal issues if that’s going to come up (that is – if your child is riding in a vehicle with a friend who gets pulled over and drugs are found in the car/on the friend, how does that affect your child).
5. You might be the only positive influence in that child’s life. Can you limit visits to your home only? Can you be available for that other child? Do you have contact with the child’s parents? Is there a community agency that might be able to help the child, or help you help the child?

We can’t fix everyone, much as we might like to try.
.-= kathy´s last blog ..Help! My Daughter wants to be on Facebook! =-.

Melissa (Dr. Mom) June 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

This is such a great question and a tough one. I feel that now while my children are so young, I really do pick their friends because I’m usually friends with their parents. I know once school starts this will all change and while I want my kids to choose their own friends, I know I would probably discourage a friendship if the friend was not exactly a positive influence. But you bring up a good point, maybe the friend could learn from your child. Can’t say exactly how I will handle this in the future but I hope I will be open minded and encourage my own child to remember and uphold the values and lessons we have instilled in him. Another great post!
.-= Melissa (Dr. Mom)´s last blog ..It’s Follow-Up Friday! =-.

Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds June 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Oh how I wish I could! I’ve already pointed out that Julia might have friends that do bad things. She might have a friend that smokes – I did. She might know someone that gets pregnant in high school – I did. If you could pick your kids friends it wouldn’t help because you’re not going to be able to do it forever. You just have to give them a firm foundation and help them to be the ones to rub off on the tough kids.
.-= Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds´s last blog ..Too non-committal for a bucket list =-.

gigi June 8, 2010 at 8:35 am

Dalia, your posts keep disappearing from my reader! So glad you posted today on LBS.

Great post idea. We are just starting to face this question as my son enters second grade and daughter, kinder. We have tried to guide, but not control, who my son associates with. Fortunately, he’s a good soul and doesn’t really like hanging out, for the most part, with kids that aren’t a good influence. His choices are not always the wisest, though – his current BFF is someone who sort of walks all over him and only wants to associate with my son when the #1 friend isn’t around. We have had several conversations with our son about it but he keeps sticking with this child. To complicate matters, I am friends with the mom and my daughter is friends with the sibling. The good news is that each year the kids get shifted around in classes and friendships do seem to change and evolve – at least for now.

So my answer is that we try to have an open dialogue about what constitutes a good friend, while still letting them make their way in the world and make their own choices. The flip side of this question is do you let your kids hang out with kids they love, but you sort of despise the parents? :)
.-= gigi´s last blog ..Why Blogging Is Good For You =-.

Erica June 8, 2010 at 9:41 am

My son is 10. I’ve never actually chosen his friends for him. He usually has pretty good judgment. If he plays with a kid a few times, and they aren’t “good”, he just stops playing with them. However, I do keep my eye on how his friends treat him, and if I see anything disturbing, I talk to him about it, and he understands. When he was a little younger, I did notice that one little boy only wanted to be around him if he could come into our home and play video games. I nipped that in the bud.

I’m sure this will come into play a little more as he gets older. I don’t really want to pick his friends. I talk to him about how good friends act, he tells me when he has a problem with a friend, and I hope that continues.
.-= Erica´s last blog ..Family photos – Memorial Day 2010 =-.

Alexandra June 8, 2010 at 11:33 am

I can’t believe I was just thinking this yesterday.

My son has a friend I DO NOT CARE FOR.

BUT I remember my mother being like that, and it drove a wedge between my mother and I.

That keeps me from being too vocal, b/c it conjures up the bad memories I had of my mother coming down on my friends.

NO easy answers at all. Fascinating post. Love what you blog about.

Mary June 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

I think it’s okay to help your children see who good friends are and help them make choices. I used to say, “I can take care of my children; it’s the other parents that make it difficult.”
Love your blog.

Tracy June 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I let my son pick his own friends. He is still young so we haven’t had any issues yet. I believe that a strong willed child can “rub off” on another child in good and bad ways. I try to teach my son to be confident in who he is so that others won’t influence him as much.

CherylT June 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I think you can only do that when your kids are very young, and even then, they may not like who you pick out for them. But that doesn’t mean moms shouldn’t try to influence their child’s choice of friends. I make comments to my older children when I don’t approve of their associations and while that may not stop them from hanging out together, they don’t bring them home.
.-= CherylT´s last blog ..Same sex kiss could jump start these flagging celebrity careers =-.

liz June 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm

i’m not sure how i’d even find out about most kids’ home life. or at least not early on enough in a friendship to even consider doing something about it.

but i do want the girls to be around other positive examples.
.-= liz´s last blog ..Parenting Firsts: Summer Camp =-.

Nicole @ Help! Mama Remote... June 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I would like to choose my childs friends but would I really make the right choice. I think as we raise our children we should allow them to choose their friends. However, we can give them advice without pushing them into rebellion.
.-= Nicole @ Help! Mama Remote…´s last blog ..What will make a gardener green with envy =-.

Alyson June 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I had a couple of “bad” experiences growing up where my mother tried to shut down two of my friendships (both girls came from unhealthy homes and as a result were starting to make bad decisions. Of course, I found them fascinating!). I could really see where she was coming from in her objections, but they were instrumental in keeping those relationships going much longer than they should have and eventually ended badly because of them. And I never felt I could talk to her when I had a concern about the friendship, or what to do because it would go down a sort of “I told you so” path. I learned alot from these relationships – both what to do and what not to do – and hope they may have learned something from me.

Because of these experiences, I am trying to be more of a coach to my daughters with their friendships (well, that is the plan anyway – my older daughter is only six and just finished K) rather than picking their friends. I agree with Nicole – how would I know who is the right choice for them? And what will happen when Im not around?

Great question and posts!

TVs Take June 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Great question. I came from a broken home and I know some of my friends parents questioned whether I was a good friend or not. That said, I hope to be a coach to my child and simply remind her that spending time with good people is one of her most important tasks as a child. Following you from Cameron’s site.

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