Elizabeth was in third or fourth grade when she asked if she could invite a new friend to come over after school to play. “Sure,” I said. “No problem.” So on the day that was chosen I picked the girls up from school and headed home thinking things be like any other play date.
It didn’t take long, however, for me to pick up some negative vibes about this little girl. She was rude to Olivia when Olivia walked into the bedroom Elizabeth and her friend were playing in—the bedroom Olivia shared with Elizabeth. When she didn’t stop, I poked my head in and reminded everyone to be nice.
My reminder went in one ear and out the other, though, and pretty soon Elizabeth’s new friend was at it again. I called to Olivia and told her to give the girls some space, but before she had time to leave the room, both Elizabeth and her new friend were being rude and unkind to Olivia. I issued another warning and reminded Elizabeth that this was not the way she was to treat her sister. Both my warning and comment was met with the infamous eye roll from the little girl who was a guest in our home, and an argument from Elizabeth.
That was it. I simply announced that the play date was over and that it was time for me to take our guest home. The girls knew how to tell time. They knew it really wasn’t time, but Elizabeth was also smart enough to not argue, so they gathered her friend’s things, we got into the car, took her home, and she was not invited back. And just in case you are wondering, Elizabeth was not allowed to go to her house to play, either. In fact, the friendship didn't last very long after that day.
Your child’s friendships are one of the most difficult aspects of parenting to do well or right. And just so you’ll know upfront, you are probably going to mess it up a time or two, but you still have to be proactive and vigilant. How? Glad you asked.
First, teach your children to be nice to everyone. Being nice means being polite, not speaking unkindly, or being a bully. Even the most disruptive and naughty children deserve to be treated with kindness.But being nice to everyone doesn't mean your child should be friends with everyone.
Secondly, know your child’s friends. You can do this by following my ‘rule’ of your terms…your turf. In other words, get to know your child’s friends by having them in your home or supervising/chaperoning events in other places. This allows you to see who your children are playing with, how disciplined these children are, and how well their family’s core values line up with yours. The your terms…your turf rule also gives your child the opportunity to have friends from both similar and different backgrounds without worrying whether or not they will be negatively influenced; like in the case of Elizabeth’s playdate-gone-bad.
Once you know a child, then you can be more comfortable with letting your children spend time in the care and supervision of other parents.Teaching children to follow this rule can also help when they get to be teens by providing them with a way to handle peer pressure in a positive manner.
Let’s face it, though. There are some kids you don’t want your children hanging out (and for justifiable reasons). Just remember that the way a child dresses, where he/she lives, what his/her folks do for a living, and the color of someone’s skin aren’t ‘justifiable reasons’. Dishonesty, rudeness, defiance, and treating others unkindly…those are justifiable reasons for steering your children away from a relationship.
Copyright 2015 Darla Noble. No part of this can be used or copied without permission from the author.