The company we keep has a big influence on our lives, though we may not admit it. Some friends may indulge and encourage unpleasant behaviours, while others push us to become better versions of ourselves.
Humans crave to belong, and in the process, we sometimes associate ourselves with the wrong company. Looking back, we certainly made poor decisions and committed mistakes. Like us when we were younger, our kids are naive and not equipped to discern right from wrong. As parents, it is our duty to pass on these experiences and guide them on the right path. Whether you have a toddler, a rebelling adolescent or simply need some advice, read on as we share 3 warning signs of wrong company all parents should look out for.
Though it is not possible to monitor your child’s every move, we recommend that you be extra observant whenever your child is with the friend(s) in question, for example when you pick up your child from school, or when they are hanging out in school or at home. Your reaction and response to your child’s “bad influence” should be dependent on the kind of “trouble” the said friend(s) bring or create. While some pushing and shoving are common in children, there are signs parents must be wary of. Sudden or gradual shifts in their behaviour at home, such as increased tantrums and irritability, hiding in their room with doors locked, acting out or hitting their siblings etc, suggests that they might have picked them up from their social circle.
If that friend is one who makes lame jokes, asks weird questions (“why did the chicken cross the road?”), comes to class without brushing his teeth or makes your child play Roblox every day, the “threat” level is lower. As parents, ensure the appropriate messages are conveyed to your kids (“Brush your teeth before going to school! You don’t want Bruce to smell your morning breath!”).
However, if that friend is one who displays threatening or unbecoming behaviour (such as acting inappropriately in school or around the opposite gender, bullying other students, talking back to teachers, egging your child to do stupid/dangerous things from underage drinking to stealing), you should be concerned. We know how peer influence has a great impact on our behaviour and actions, hence we must be exceptionally careful when dealing with such a situation. Importantly, observe keenly before passing any judgement and deciding on an appropriate strategy. The key is to reduce/minimise interactions between your kid and that friend to prevent further damage. Such tendencies not only cause emotional harm to others, but it may also even escalate to violence.
Growing up, friendship meant spending time together, talking, laughing, sharing little secrets and simply, just hanging out because you enjoy each other’s company. However, “adulting” means life sometimes get in the way and we become busy with other commitments. At some point, we would have encountered people whom we thought were friends but turned out otherwise. Picture this — that “friend” that only calls when help is needed, when he needs a hand with a project deadline or a referee testimonial to secure a new job.
These “friendships” are not real and are unfortunately more common than we think, even amongst kids. You have definitely seen kids being “nice” to their clueless classmates that help them with homework or buy them snacks/stationeries. These kids (knowingly or unknowingly) trick their victims into thinking this is what friends do. When these conditional arrangements fall apart, the “friendship” dissolves. If your child is a victim, he/she will be hurt and in serious cases, they may end up being isolated and even bullied by the people he/she thought were friends.
Even though we cannot monitor our child’s every move, we must as much as possible be actively involved and observant of their behaviour. If they are starting to ask for additional allowance for no good reason, or seem to have an unreasonable amount of homework that never seems to end, we suggest that you try to find out from them on what they are doing, or check with the teachers in school. These kinds of relationships are unhealthy and over time your child may develop a superficial standard that he/she believes that friends abide by. If not guided, this inaccurate depiction is likely to affect his interpersonal skills and relationships.
It can be hurtful when friends subtly or explicitly say things that make you feel bad. The person may or may not be doing it intentionally, nonetheless, if it makes you question your self-worth, you should know it’s wrong. A friendship based on putting others down constantly is definitely not true friendship.
There are many possible factors as to why some people would constantly derive joy from putting others down, and it happens to both adults and kids. Does this friend make non-encouraging comments when you share about something good that you encountered? Are such comments made more often when there are other people around?
Kids do too. Some tend to do this after receiving their exam grades. He/she will jump at the opportunity to mock the weaker classmates who didn’t do as well, asking questions such as “How bad did you do this time?”, “Did you fail again?”, all in a bid to make themselves feel better and to prove that they are superior. More often than not, these kids feel the compelling urge to put others down because they are extremely insecure. Instead of good memories and laughter, such toxic relationships will bring your child frustration and demoralisation. They are energy-draining and consequently, your child may start finding school a dread. Their self-esteem is injured and they may develop feelings of depression, anxiety and/or fear because of these so-called “friends”.
Aggressive friends promote aggressive behaviour. We, adults, understand the causal relationship, but opening our kids’ eyes to this is challenging. Refrain from dramatising the situation. If not dealt with carefully, we are far more likely to end up driving them closer to these friends instead of steering them away.
Do not ignore the issue, and hope that things will right itself. Do not pretend that your child will figure it out on his own and stop hanging out with these “bad company”. Kids are not emotionally equipped or mature enough to discern right from wrong. Think of what might happen if there is no one to guide them in making the right decisions!
Would you cross a busy road blindfolded? No. I bet you know how one bad decision can possibly change a life forever. So why take the risk when you have the ability to steer it in the right direction?
Talk to your child about your own experiences, what you faced when you were at their age. Turn them into teaching moments – share what you did wrong, and what you did right. It’s perfectly fine to show your kids that you were also once young and unworldly. Teach them that friends don’t lie and real friends wouldn’t intentionally make each other sad or angry, but instead, encourage each other to be better. Hence, no one should have to put up with “friends” who do otherwise.
Communicating with your child’s teachers is also a good way to better understand your child, and to keep track of their academic performance and social circle. This not only gives you the opportunity to share your concerns, and also for the teachers to update you about your child’s possible behaviour changes in school.
Having ample family time is a great way to build a strong parent-child relationship. Nurturing the physical, emotional, and social development of the child in their growing up years is critical. We are their first teachers and we are the ones to lay the first foundations for their lives. Besides, maintaining regular and open communication will help a child to open up and feel comfortable enough to approach you when they need help or advice.
We all know that raising a child is not easy and their teenage years can be brutal. During this time, teens are in the crossroads between having to cope with puberty, increasing academic pressure, family expectations and more. Truth is, kids are going to make mistakes. Sometimes, even good kids end up with bad choices. They just have to live with the consequences of these choices. What we can do is to guide and educate them, and always be there to embrace them if they are hurt or needs help. Has your child befriended the wrong company? How did you handle it?