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Child and friend who is a bad influence
Illustration courtesy Lauren Rebbeck

Help! My Child’s Friend is a Bad Influence

What do you do in this situation? Kendra Doukas shares expert tips for parents.

The Problem:

My child has a friend who encourages him to disobey and make bad choices. I don’t want to cut off the relationship because they’re close friends, but I think he’s negatively influencing my child. What should I do?

The Expert:

Kendra Doukas, assistant director, The Catalyst Center

The Solution:

Ending the friendship doesn’t teach your child how to navigate complicated friendship dynamics and would likely leave your child angry and confused.
A better approach is to have conversations with your child about healthy relationship skills. This approach will help your child learn to listen to his own feelings and instincts about risky situations and teach him how to stand up to misbehavior. It will also foster your child’s connection with his own values and encourage a focus on empathy versus labeling the other child as a “bad kid.”

Here are some points to make when talking to your child:

Also, try talking with the other parents. If they’re supportive, then you can be a united front when you see the behavior arising. If the other parents aren’t on the same page, then consider setting up boundaries around playdates. For example, your rule might be that your child’s friend can play at your home, but your child is not allowed to go to his home. You could also have a higher level of supervision than you would with other playdates.

Using this approach will not only help this situation, but also will teach positive skills for healthy friendships throughout life.

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