Children & Bad Choices in friends.

As a little girl I was always considered a “Good kid”. But I had one problem: friends. For some reason I had a habit of choosing bad friends.  Friends that often got me into trouble and that often had a bad influence on me. At every school that I went to I’d start off known as the “good, quiet kid” and then by the end of the year I was described as “trouble”. Teachers often came to my defense telling my mom that I was a good student, but that my involvement with “this” or “that” girl was the reason my behavior was poor or my grade was low.  This would of course, result in my mom telling me that I needed to make new friends and that I could not be friends with “that” particular girl. Whenever I’d ask why, she would give a myriad of reasons–from the fact that the girl just “looked bad”, to the fact that if I continued to hang out with “bad people” I would become bad, or just because “she said so”. But to my little soul, that friend mattered–good or bad–and I didn’t want to stop being her friend.

As I got older, my friendship choices were better. I still had a knack for those “misguided” souls, but I had learned not to let those “souls” influence my grades or my behavior in the classroom. Still, my parents were quick to voice their opposition to any friend that I had that “looked” a certain way or that behaved a certain way.

The reason I’m thinking about this particular topic, is because one of my cousins has a young daughter who has a “sketchy” group of friends. They are all 10 years old. And yet two of the girls act as though they are 15–between provocative clothing, talking about boys and sex, swearing, and being completely indifferent to authority–unfortunately it’s starting to rub off on her daughter.  Her daughter is old enough to understand why her friends are considered “bad girls”.  She isn’t old enough to understand that by associating with “said” girls, that it could possibly affect how people perceive her. Her daughter “doesn’t” want to stop being friends with these girls. And believe me, my cousin has tried a variety of things (grounding her, threatening to move, not allowing her to call the girls, talking to the girls parents, etc) to control the situation. At this point, she’s at a complete loss. And she’s even considering moving, just to get her daughter away from these girls.

As  parents we want our children to make plenty of friends, and to have solid friendships. We want our child to find his/her own “niche” of people that express what our child believes in. And we want to also give our child the freedom to make the decision about who he/she chooses to be friends with.  When our child makes bad choices in friends–choices that affect their grades, behaviors, and beliefs–we are then forced to examine why he/she choose that group of friends, how to stop the friendship, and how to convey to the child why the friendship isn’t a good idea.  Unfortunately it’s difficult and often hurtful to the child.

Have you ever dealt with this? If you have, how did you “fix” the situation? How did the child react?

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