My two kids are 8 and 6. And pretty much since forever, I’ve had a personal parenting rule I’ve followed for both of them that I don’t intend to let up on anytime soon: I vet their friends.
That’s right — every single one.
Now don’t get me wrong; I don’t exactly hand-pick my kids’ potential BFF’s out of a line-up, but I do keep a close eye on the relationships they create, and steer them clear of certain friendships whenever necessary. And no, I don’t feel bad about it one bit.
Before we get into it, I am well aware that this is way easier to do now, while my kids are still young. We still have the uphill battle of the tween and teen years ahead of us, where things will undoubtedly get a little … trickier. There will be times I’ll question their judgment. I’ll question their best friends; their frenemies; their crushes; and ultimately, their first boyfriends or girlfriends.
But for now, I’ll continue to book play dates with the kids I think are a positive influence, and avoid ones with those I don’t.
Of course, I know I can’t always hold my kids’ hands like this through life, but for now at least, I’m doing what I know is in their best interest — to set the foundations early when it comes to who my children befriend and ultimately, what they see as a healthy friendship.
You can call it “controlling,” or worse, helicopter parenting, but the way I see it, I am doing my best to foster and encourage friendships that are healthy; ones they hopefully continue on their own as they grow older and more independent.
And yes, I know we’re talking about 8- and 6-year-olds here, but let’s be real: I’m sure we all had that one friend our parents always gave a bit of side-eye too. You know, the one who was constantly getting in trouble in class for talking out of turn or maybe teasing other kids on the playground. Or how about that friend in middle school who encouraged you to get your belly button pierced without your parents knowing it or sneak out in the middle of the night at your house (because it would never fly at their own). No parent wants their kids around friends that skip school, drink at a young age, or generally act like fools. And yes, even at 8 and 6, I can already see seeds of that kind of behavior in a few of my kids’ schoolmates.
I was reminded of all of this recently when I came across an interview with Pete’s Dragon star Bryce Dallas Howard, who pretty much hit the nail on the head.
“The most important thing my parents taught me about raising kids was to control your kids’ friends. What they said is at a certain point your child’s friends have more influence over them than you have as parents.”
And it’s not just anecdotal, either — plenty of research has found that peer relationships influence adolescents far greater than their parents do.
As Judith Rich Harris, a psychology researcher and author, once told The Telegraph:
“Though relationships with parents greatly affect the day-to-day happiness of children, just as marital relationships greatly affect the day-to-day happiness of adults, neither leaves deep marks on the personality. In the long run, it is what happens to them outside the parental home that makes children turn out the way they do.”
So yep; if my kids meet other good kids, you better believe I’m going to help foster those relationships and cultivate a positive friend group if I can, even if I’m going out of my way to do so at first. There are way more benefits to being involved and encouraging of the right kind of people in your kids’ lives than butting out.
For now, I try my best to model healthy relationships of my own to show my kids that they have a better chance of enjoying their friendships with other people who lift them up rather than drag them down, tease them, or get them into trouble. After all, at the end of the day, that’s the best thing any of us can do for our kids, at any age.More On