Do you know your kids friends and their parents?
Even if you’re the best parent and are raising the best child, their safety depends on our help.
The reality is, as parents, we are fully aware of just how much our kids’ friends influence their behavior. And while you may think you don’t have to worry much until your kids are teenagers, even young kids can positively or negatively influence your own kids’ behaviors.
Dr. Shatkin shared a number of solutions that parents can use to make sure they are in a position to get to know their kids’ friends and keep your kids safe.
Don’t Stop Parenting
It can sometimes feel uncomfortable to parent other people’s kids, even when they’re in your home. Other kids are treated as “guests” and therefore behaviors are allowed to slide.
But that has to stop.
Other kids need to know and respect the rules of your home, just as your kids are expected to. In many cases, when they know the rules, they’ll try to follow them. Think of it as if you’re the coach and the kids in the home are on a sports team. During the time those kids are under your care, you’re the one who is coaching (parenting) them.
You can’t hold a kid accountable for not following the rules if they don’t know what the expectations are in your home. That said, if you DO let other kids know the expectations for people who come into your home and they DON’T follow those rules, that will start to tell you a lot about those kids.
That’s why parenting all the kids in your home is a great strategy for getting to know your kids’ friends better. Do they respect your authority, or do they do as they want?
Have an Open Door & Fun House
Before I ever had kids, a friend with teenage kids gave me a piece of parenting advice: “Sheena, make sure when you have kids that you have all the toys and games and fun stuff for your kids and their friends to do. Yes, you’ll go through a lot more money in food feeding them all, and parents may hang out at your house a lot, and your house will never be quiet… but it’ll all be worth it because you’ll know that your kids are safe under your own roof. You won’t have to worry about what they’re out doing.”
I always thought this was a great piece of parenting advice. (And it’ll be a lot easier when I remind myself that I need to hold the kids responsible for cleaning up after themselves.)
As Shatkin explained in our interview, kids just want to be together and have fun together with minimal supervision.
While it may be easier in some houses than others, try to create an environment for your kids where their friends WANT to come over and hang out. Maybe it means you retreat to your bedroom and read or watch TV there while giving your kids and their friends control over the living room. Or maybe it means creating a fun area in your backyard or on the patio where they can hang out. Maybe it means putting a projector outside so they can watch fun movies and eat popcorn and frozen pizzas.
Try to create a comfortable place for your kids that’s not overly supervised.
Get to Know Your Kids’ Friends’ Parents
Getting to know the parents of your kids’ friends has a couple of benefits.
First, it gives you a chance to know the kids better and know where they come from. It also tells you about their own parenting style and whether you might be comfortable with your kids going over to their house in the future.
However, by getting to know the parents, you’ll also be able to work alongside them to watch out for the safety of your kids.
For example, they’ll be able to let you know if they see your kids engaging in risky behavior when you’re not around but they are. If you don’t know the parents well, they might be more inclined to just throw up their hands and say, “well, they’re not my kids…”
Know that Kids Want to Avoid Pain
You may not realize this, but when kids feel left out of something socially and emotionally, they feel pain in the same part of the brain that they feel physical pain. We’ll do a lot to avoid pain and so our kids will often take risks to avoid feeling that pain.
So having your kids’ friends present can cause them to act in a way that they wouldn’t if they’re around just you. The crazy thing is that they may not even be aware of the change in their behavior.
That’s why it’s so important that you encourage your kids’ friendships with kids you know and like and that you try to steer them away from kids you can tell would be a negative influence. Because even their friends who ARE good influences can cause them to take more risks.
And when you do notice that your kids are acting differently, driving faster or otherwise risky behavior, pull them aside quietly (so as not to embarrass them) and let them know. As Dr. Shatkin pointed out to us, they may not even be aware of the change in their behavior and you may need to let them know so they’re more cognizant. of it.
Final Thoughts on Why It’s Important to Know Your Kids’ Friends
Our kids’ friends are incredibly influential in their lives, and since teens are, by nature, designed to take risks, it’s important that you know who they’re surrounding themselves with. Are their friends good kids or are they going to pressure your kids to make poor decisions? There are a few ways to easily get to know your kids’ friends better.
- Never Stop Parenting – And See How Their Friends React to Your Parenting
- Have an Open Door & Fun House to Keep Kids Under Your Roof More Often
- Get to Know the Parents
If you do notice that your kids’ friends aren’t a good influence, try to steer him or her to hang out with other friends. You might even point out some of the negative behavior and consequences of that behavior. Resist the temptation to put down the kids, directly, as that can sometimes make that friend more appealing to hang out with.