As parents of teenagers, you can think of many things that cause you worry and anguish. Likely near the top of such a list are their interactions with bad teen friends. Years of effective parenting can unravel with a few bad choices made via the influence of negative peers.
Luckily, you have many practical steps you can take to help guide your teenagers through this time when peer influence is at its strongest.
Keep your cool. Little alienates your children more than recurring fights. You have done a great job raising them up until this point. Their peers are not the only ones with influence. You influence them as well, so use it to your advantage. Make logical and practical arguments for why they need to not only avoid self-destructive or harmful behaviors but also why they need to avoid bad teen friends who engage in those behaviors as well. Keep a level head but also remain firm in laying out the very real dangers to your teen.
Focus on Behavior, not Individuals
Avoid generalizing friends as all negative. Instead, focus on the behaviors. Highlight specific issues that concern you, such as friends who skip classes or commit petty crimes. Explain that hanging around others who engage in these behaviors takes away the stigma from these behaviors. You taught them to avoid certain things, but their walls can break down if everyone else is doing it. In addition, even if your teen manages to avoid engaging in the behavior themselves, they might still face legal trouble if they are with others who commit a crime, such as stealing, using drugs, or violent acts toward other people. Explain these risks to them. Trust that you raised a practical human being who will respond to logic.
Practice Conflict Resolution
Use the following guidelines:
- Practice effective conflict resolution techniques if they do act out. Some teens might become violent when confronted, which you cannot accept. Make sure that you keep the discipline focused on your teen’s behavior and not on what somebody else has done.
- Remember the effective parenting techniques that you have used thus far.
- Set clear rules for your teen with consistent consequences for violating them.
- Provide a safe environment where your teen can interact with others at your home or at another trusted parent’s house instead of banning sketchy friends. Explain that these friends must also abide by house rules to remain as guests. Observe their interactions without interfering.
Practice proactive parenting. Set aside time daily to talk to your teen and find out what they are doing. Show your teen that they can trust you and talk with you so that you know what they are doing. Talk to their teachers for insight on what is happening in class. Stay informed instead of believing rumors. If your own child is a negative influence to others, you might need to take action to address that. Don’t be afraid to seek outside help as needed. Be there for your teen as a parent and trust in the guidance you’ve given them thus far.
Rooting for passionate parents out there.