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Teaching your Child to Choose Friends Wisely

If you haven’t seen Leave It to Beaver, you might enjoy screening an episode or two. Netflix has this show available. In addition to all the laughs, there is a lot I like about how this show portrays family life.

Specifically:

  1. Within well-defined guidelines and parameters, children are free to express themselves and develop their interests.
  2. In the Cleaver household, the parents don’t jump in and rescue their kids from all tough consequences.
  3. Beaver and Wally are allowed to choose their own friends. Their parents participate in the process and step in when necessary, but most of the time, with their parents’ guidance, Beaver and Wally figure out for themselves which friends are right for them.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of #3. All of us, as parents, want to ensure that our kids have positive, healthy friends.

Occasionally, this drive leads us to actually pick their friends for them. While this approach might mean that they have good friends now, it can be damaging in the long run since it prevents our kids from forming their own judgments regarding their friendships.

We should not select their friends for them, but help them pick good friends, giving guidance but allowing them to play an active role, even when they make a mistake.

Here are a few ways to help children learn about choosing friends wisely.

1. Teach your child about values. 

However, don’t assume your children comprehend all of the virtues and values that matter to you as a family just because they’ve seen you. Discuss virtues and values you value as a family. 

Always go in-depth, explaining to your children what goes into each value and how you can see that value in others. 

Knowing their values will make it easier for your kids to identify friends who share their values.

2. Talk to your kids

About their friendships and the lessons, they have learned from them.

3. If your child discovers that a friend believes something different

Talk to your child about that specific belief or value. Make sure your child understands the reasons for someone else’s belief, but also give your family the reason why they believe the way they do. 

Once your child reaches adolescence, “because that’s what we do at our family” is no longer enough, so it’s important to explain your reasoning beforehand.

4. Give your children opportunities

To meet friends with different personalities and interests. This lets them discover who they enjoy being with. 

On the other hand, it also allows them to understand that friendship is not determined in any way by the talents or interests of one’s personality. 

A friend can be very different than you, but be a good friend; a friend can be very similar to you, but be an unfriendly influence.

5. Encourage positive friendships. 

When your kid finds a good friend, let him/her know what you think and help him find time and means to develop the friendship. 

If your child starts to develop friendships with other children that you think might be harmful, step in and set very clear boundaries regarding how much interaction between your child and that child is allowed, and in what circumstances.

6. Provide your child a list of questions 

To think about after getting to know someone a little bit. They could answer them verbally or in writing.

  • When you say no, do they respect you?
  • Do they listen to your opinion?
  • Do they share your values?
  • Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself around them?
  • What do you have in common?
  • Do you feel you can trust them?
  • Do you think this friend will stick by you in hard times? Why or why not?

7. Make sure your kids know 

That you care about them and that they feel comfortable asking for your advice. If they ever have problems with their friends, they can ask you for advice or for other help.

A child can start learning how to choose friends when he is able to play with other children and speak with them.

Your three year old might not be old enough to choose their friends, but they’re old enough to understand that you don’t want them playing with so-and-so because so-and-so hits them and they’re not allowed to play with them.

Everything you teach them about friendship helps them pick good friends and teaches them how to be one, even at a young age!