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Ew, this is a bad situation. It definitely happened with my parents and I can already see it happening with some of my clients who tell me stories of their “crazy slutty friend.” So, what can parents do?
1) Don’t Overreact
If your kids friend does something awful, do not overreact! It’s the same principle as your teen blurting out that they are thinking of going braless to the dance this Friday. The bigger deal you make, the more attractive it (and that person becomes).
Not only do I advise you to not overreact, but underreacting can serve you well. Teens usually know when parents are going to disapprove or someone or something. If you underreact, they will often let their guard down and tell you more because they feel that you are being calm and open.
3) Give it Time
Friends can come in and out like trends. If you do not like one of your child’s friends, just give it some time, they might leave your kid’s life on their own. And if they really are a bad seed, your great kid might be able to find out for themselves.
4) Get All the Facts…another way
Get all the facts. Usually parents are right, sometimes they might overhear something, read a bad story over a left open IM or email and assume the worst. Be sure to get a few different perspectives on this person. What do other parents think? When you underreact (please try!) you can often find out a lot by waiting and listening further. Find out what your child’s other friends say or think and you might learn more about the kid in question.
5) Don’t Say Don’t
When my parents told me they didn’t like a boy or a friend, I wanted to prove them wrong and would try to become even closer friends with that person. I also would take their criticism personally. Even though my parents were talking about how much they didn’t like/trust my friends, I felt like they were talking about me.
6) Make Analogies
Since I really recommend staying away from telling them you do not like their friends, the closest thing you can do to persuading them is making subtle analogies. Your kid does not realize that their friend is a bad egg, so connect the friend to something that your kid does realize is not so great. Here are some analogies I remember my mom using (she didn’t usually include the negative example, I included those to show you the power of the analogies):
“You know your friend ___ reminds me of that girl who ruined your birthday party in fifth grade, are they alike at all?”
“My friend said the same thing to me right before she stole my boyfriend.”
“It seems you are really stressed when she comes over, and you always have to clean-up your whole room after a sleepover with her, maybe you should do some pre-cleaning.”
7) Never Say I Told You So
Lets hope that your subtle listening skills and great analogies turn your child away from the toxic friend…after the fact do not say “I told you so” or “I never did like him anyway.” You will undo all of the great work you had done! Instead say, wow, that is awesome you were able to realize what kind of people deserve your time.” This way you are showing you support their decision, reinforcing that it was their decision and giving them a compliment.
This post is dedicated to one of my fabulous moms, Stacy Van Petten for guiding me to make the right friend choices, but never letting me think she was (good job mom!).
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