Is That A Good Friend Or A Bad Friend?

Worried about bad influences that could lead your little one astray? Here’s how to steer her towards the right ones.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Worried about bad influences that could lead your little one astray? Here’s how to steer her towards the right ones.

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Avoid criticising her friends When you say “I don’t want you to play with X”, your child sees it as a threat to her independence and it alienates her.

“Criticising her friends can drive her further into the arms of those people,” says Fauziah Shah, director at Petra Counselling Centre.

If your child is with someone whom you know is a bad choice, sometimes you have to sit back and let her realise that on her own.

Don’t be overprotective When kids make mistakes, they have to deal with the fallout and find out who they can and cannot trust.

“Overprotectiveness weakens a child’s capacity to solve problems. If a child knows Mum or Dad is in control of what happens in her life and her decisions, there’s no motivation to make her own choices and be independent,” says Fauziah.

“Learning to deal with consequences is vital as she grows up.”

Talk about self-respect If a child has self-respect, she understands her self-worth and loves herself.

“She wouldn’t feel small if her ideas and inclinations are different from her peers. Most children are attracted to those who are confident and self-assured and will not bully them into toeing the line. This helps her gain respect among her friends,” says Fauziah.

Praise positive friends Make reinforcing comments about pals who have a good influence, or when your child shows initiative in a tricky peer situation.

But don’t praise her yet – she will know that you’re up to something. So instead of saying: “Janelle is the kind of girl I want you to be friends with”, you could say, “Janelle looks like a sensible girl”.

Share your mistakes Don’t be embarrassed to talk about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. Tell your kid stories about friendships from your youth and share moments where you faced challenges or made a bad judgment call.

“Don’t wait for problems to surface – good rapport between parent and child will go a long way,” says Fauziah.

Make friends with your child’s pals Get to know the kids she likes to hang out with so you can build a bond with them, too.

“Invite her friends over so they feel comfortable with you. If there’s a particular friend you like, invite her to family outings and parties to strengthen the friendship with your child,” Fauziah suggests.

Show love with boundaries As your young one demonstrates that she can make sensible decisions and is not overly affected by friends, you can relax some boundaries.

“With stronger-minded children, go soft, then softer, and keep negotiating,” says Fauziah.

“Let your child know that you love her and want her to have fun, but you also want her to have self-respect and be safe. It’s always good to discuss – as a family – certain house rules and all members of the family, including parents, should stick by them. This way, trust is established and your child knows she can depend on you for guidance.”

"Criticising her friends can driveher further into the arms of those people."