There are two kinds of kids says Oregon mom and blogger Julia Siviglia. The ones who are a bad influence on your kids and the ones for whom your kid is the bad influence.
Writing about the kid who’s taught her son to turn regular erasers into toy guns and the dislike for pink he’s developed thanks to his friends, Siviglia put out into the blogosphere what I’ve been worrying about since my daughter started nursery school. Just how much say do I have over her friends?
It’s not that there’s really much to worry about. I don’t think she’ll be learning to smoke a joint over a table of blue sand or picking up tips on how to break curfew during circle time. My biggest fear could even have me labeled a bit of a snob, but I’m willing to swallow that pill for the sake of my child. There are kids who are downright strange. Kids who scare me a bit, for reasons I can’t exactly put my finger on. And I confess I change the subject when they come up in conversation in our house. What about “so and so,” I’ll ask, subtly guiding the conversation toward her cousin, who is also in the class. I’m not looking for my child to hang out with the “popular” kids or encouraging her to form a nursery school clique. I don’t tell her who to spend time with or warn her against making friends with anyone in particular. I’m just wary already of the kids with a bit of an edge, the kids I can see being the troublemakers down the road.
It’s not always the other kids I worry about. Siviglia’s right: peer pressure is out there. And my daughter can put the pressure on with the best of them. We’re still trying to balance the bossiness in our only child without breaking her of self confidence. And we’re watching other kids closely to see what’s “normal 3-year-old” and what peccadilloes are simply part of her personality. In cases where she’s the agressor and her playmate is taking it on the nose, I am quick to step in. Which is why, for now, I prefer to see her paired with kids who are her emotional equals (for lack of a better word), kids who won’t take her guff. I don’t want her to get too big for her britches. I don’t want her to be the bossy kid who the other kids avoid.
I’ve found the best answer is simply avoidance. I avoid discussing the “strange” kids as much as I avoid negotiating between two arguing toddlers (unless, of course, it gets physical). And I avoid putting my daughter in situations with kids I don’t approve of – as much as is humanly possible. Am I picking my daughter’s friends? Sort of. But isn’t that what playdating is all about?