Kids and Friendship: Like-Minded Friends
The right friends can be a great benefit to your child, enhancing their sense of security in the world and emotional development. By the same token, the wrong friends can come with some serious negative effects on your child and can complicate parenting tremendously. For this reason it’s important to make sure your child develops relationships with like-minded kids from like-minded families.
If your child is spending time with a friend, or friends, whose parents share your values and parenting philosophy, you can usually rest assured that they’ll be supervised in a way you’d approve. Kids often take in media when spending time together (movies, music, etc.), so it’s vital that their friends live within boundaries in these areas much like you’ve developed for your family.
The middle school years may be the crucial time in which to help your child cultivate friendships with like-minded peers. A recent study at the University of Oregon found that that boys and girls whose friends were socially active in ways where rules were respected did better in their classroom work. Having friends who engage in problem behavior, in contrast, was related to a decrease in their grades. Having pro-social friends and staying away from deviant peers proved more effective for academic payoffs than simply being friends with high-achieving peers.
The effects of other kids on your child extend far beyond the classroom as well. The attitudes of their friends toward drug and alcohol use and standards for sexual behavior can greatly influence your child. Kids are far more likely to stick with the boundaries and values prescribed by their parents if the majority of their friends are doing the same. There is, it seems, strength in numbers.
An added benefit of your child’s relationship with like-minded friends is that they’ll likely get reinforcement of your worldview and values from the other parents. Often, these messages are better received, or at least reinforced, when they come from a source other than you.
Above all, take the long view when coaching your children in their social lives. Remember that popularity today is worth very little in “the real world,” and that protecting their hearts and minds from unhealthy influences is far more important than being homecoming queen. Help them choose their friends wisely and they’ll often be friends for life.
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