Some kids pick the best friends and some kids need a little help with “discernment.” God created our kids with the ability to choose, and he honors their right to choose. One of our most important jobs as a parent is teaching our kids how to use their right to choose, rightly. When do you feel the need to “meddle” or “manage” your child’s friendship with someone?
Sometimes it’s obvious. If you have been to the principal’s office twice because of one their friendships, it might be time for a little meddling or management. If your child’s grades have tanked, find out who they sit next to in the classroom’—but be prepared, it could be more your child’s issue than the friend’s. If your child is hurt because they were not invited to a party, ask who was invited and then you might be more able to help with the reason our child was left out.
If your child is hanging out with someone you don’t particularly care for, ask your child what they like about that friend. The answer to that question might indicate how you will handle the situation. If they like that person because they are funny, awesome, popular or good-looking, you can have a conversation about the qualities that matter most in a friend. It also helps to ask your child how that person treats them. The answers to that question will help you know if you want to encourage a friendship or encourage your child to look elsewhere.
One year when we were new to a school, my son became friends with a boy. A few notes and a principal’s visit later, I found out that this friend was the class “bad-boy.” I talked to my son, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. As I dug a little deeper, I found out that the “bad-boy” was the only one that had tried to make friends with my son. Everyone else in the class already had friends and didn’t reach out to the new kid, especially when he made friends with the “bad boy” their moms had told them to avoid. That conversation made it easier to offer grace for that friend. I would like to say the story had a happier ending, but, truthfully, we had to orchestrate an ending to that relationship. (I’m not sure what happened to that “bad-boy.” I expect he might be on a presidential ballot someday.)
It’s important to teach our kids that they won’t be popular with everyone. That lesson will be true for the rest of their lives. While it is right to protect our kids from the friends who are trouble, it is probably not right to push our kids to be friends with people we perceive as popular. It’s normal to want your child to be part of the in-crowd, but your child might not feel normal in that crowd.
Parental politics have always existed. We might try to have our child included on a certain team, get a certain teacher, be invited to certain parties and befriended by certain friends. It might work . . . but probably not for long. Parent will painfully, and quietly observe the friendships our children choose. We will see them helped, hurt, laugh, and cry. We will see them grow and learn how to develop a great friendship, and we will see them learn when to walk away.
Our kids may pick the best friends, or they might need some help with discernment. But, unless your child is harmed by a friendship, it is probably best that they are given the right to choose the friendships that are right for them. The lessons might be hard, but those lessons will strengthen them to live, work, and develop permanent relationships in the years ahead.
If you choose to raise your child to know and love God, there will be some circles and situations your child will be excluded from joining. Aren’t you glad? Help your child to know they can be glad as well.
I look back on my own parenting and remember a few friendships I questioned along the way. Some, I would have ended if I could. Others I would have strengthened if I could. Humbly, my kids were a lot better at picking their friendships than I would have been. I’m glad I stayed out of their choices . . . at least most of the time.
Now, time to get on Facebook and see what happened to that “bad-boy” friend! This could get interesting…