"A few weeks ago you wrote an article about a parent liking her friend but not her friend’s children (I Like My Friend, But Her Kids?). I assume these were younger kids, but what about an older child’s friends?
My son (age 9) has a very good friend that I feel is not a good influence on him. The boy is getting my son to do things that he normally would not do on his own. I try not to show my dislike for the boy, but recently my son became angry with me when I told him he could not go to the boy’s house to play.
He said to me, 'I know you do not like him. He knows it too. You are always giving us a hard time when he is around.'
Well, I was shocked. I thought I was being friendly enough, but they could see through it. I have hurt my son and his friend’s feelings but I really do not want this other boy around. What am I to do?" - Patch Reader in Roslyn
My first question is what exactly are the two boys doing together that is not of your liking? If it is truly wrong -- and this is all relative -- then both boys should be spoken to about the behavior. Maybe even involve the other boy’s parents.
If questionable behavior continues then appropriate disciplinary actions may have to take place, such as warnings, privileges revoked or holding off on playdates. You may even want to consider fully supervised playdates, so you can model positive behavior and show them what activities are appropriate.
Since birth to now, your child has been testing and exploring their -- and your -- boundaries. The big difference now is that they are bigger, mentally better equipped to come up with some hair-brained schemes, physically better able to attempt -- if not actually accomplish -- these schemes and have a partner to help them to feel brave in acting out their boldness.
Look at the two of them and picture this: They are each others’ personal cheerleaders saying, “You can do it. You can jump the skateboard over the garbage cans in the driveway,” even though he only learned to balance on a skateboard that afternoon.
Gently explain to your child, and the friend, what is appropriate and acceptable (House Rules) -- this way you are all on the same page and misunderstandings can be avoided.
Set boundaries such as, “I do not mind you playing water balloon war outside but never under any circumstances are you to get the inside of the house wet.”
Be sure to have them repeat this back to you and ask them to give you scenarios where they might have thought it okay to enter the house with water balloons or being soaking wet, and work out another way to accomplish the said task without the tidal wave hitting the inside of your home. By having them come up with the solutions, you are non-verbally telling them, “I have faith in you, you know what is going to make this a fun experience versus a negative one.”
Make sure you are very clear that they are each responsible for their own actions.
Now that everyone has the house rules, let them play, have a good-time and be kids. Most likely they are still going to do things that warrant a gentle reminder or two -- this is when you may need to redirect the play or supervise for a short period until they are able to get themselves back on track.
Children are going to make mistakes. Your job is to be there to lovingly help them through these rough patches in hopes that they will make better decisions next time.
(Editor's Note: The opinions in this article are those of Parents “R” Talking. The opinions are not medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician about any changes you are contemplating.)