WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR CHILD GETS IN WITH THE WRONG CHILD
You can get quite frustrated when your kid starts radiating towards the wrong crowd. It can be quite an effort to stay ahead of the game and try to keep them from veering off on the wrong path. It can be scary to say in the same sentence the words “your son”. “irresponsible” and “easily led”, because sometimes it might hit home.
I know with my son I felt he had more sense and nous than to be led up the garden path. Apparently, he didn’t hold the same philosophy. And even when he was 14 and empty bottles of beer were found under his bed at boarding school I was still in denial. Fortunately, he kept his place in the school because it couldn’t be proved that he had put them there, or in fact drunk them.
I never professed to be a I never professed to be a wonderful mother, but nor did I for one minute, think that I might be a contributing factor to his actions. (I was). Nor did I believe he was anything but being led by others. Does any parent think different? And the last thing I could do though was throw criticism on his choice of friends because like a bee to the honey, he would radiate towards them.
So let’s see how many ways I got it wrong.
So as a parent if you criticise your child’s friends, isn’t that a bit like criticising their ability to use good judgement. And since when has any child felt their parent had good judgement of their friends. Only the ones with the right friends!
Fortunately, I did retain that one should never criticise the child but criticise the behaviour. But I also felt Gosh! There is so much behaviours here I am critiquing, is this actually effective?
So what would the ideal parent say? Ideal parent would say “I don’t like you hanging out with them, because you get in trouble with them”. “I don’t like the way they behave”.
Unideal me, would make mutterings about actions of others but would never actually in a level-headed manner discuss with my son the fact that he could be possibly led and misbehave because he might choose the wrong friends.
Ideal parent would keep her statements simple, direct and focused on behaviours that she didn’t like. Unideal me, oh well… let me see, I would go round muttering about bad kids who were trouble. Ideal parent would also restrict the occasions he would spend with wrong friends. Unideal me did recognise however I was in danger of turning my 11-year-old into a hermit and was that fair. So, in order to provide him with a life, I started to have a friend stay over because how much trouble could they get into at my place! Well apparently they could steal golf balls and have irate golfers chasing them to the front door. Needless to say, that was the last time direct and focused on behaviours that she didn’t like. Unideal me, oh well… let me see, I would go round muttering about bad kids who were trouble. Ideal parent would also restrict the occasions he would spend with wrong friends. Unideal me did recognise however I was in danger of turning my 11-year-old into a hermit and was that fair. So, in order to provide him with a life, I started to have a friend stay over because how much trouble could they get into at my place! Well apparently they could steal golf balls and have irate golfers chasing them to the front door. Needless to say, that was the last time that friend was allowed to stay the night. Mr personable was the next that was allowed to stay over, but apparently Mr personable was the one that would steal his father’s marijuana and share with his friends at school. Thank god for boarding colleges. But of course, that just swapped one set of friends for another.
Now I know my son wasn’t the sort to go around being an arsonist and lighting fires, but I was so sure he knew the right thing that when presented with a lighter in his bag, and he told me it was in case he needed to light a fire, while I was somewhat startled, I very naively said to make sure he didn’t make a habit of it, and proudly patted myself on the back for being so cool and diplomatic over the matter. It never occurred to me that he might be smoking. And when, as a teenager he turned up late at night with bloodshot eyes, I assumed he was overtired. And no, the alarm bells didn’t ring to me that he had been smoking dope, which of course in fact he had.
Ideal parent could also set limits with consequences that are reasonable and on par with the crime. Unideal parent left her consequences outside the door. So, when setting a limit, the consequences were so outrageous they would never be followed through.
Ideal parent might also try to befriend the wrong friend, that is in a practical and friendly manner. They might try and involve them, show interest and offer them a little more responsibility than they are used to at their place. The rationale behind this is so that coming to your place makes them feel more grownup. Ideal parent might also talk and listen to them. That might then offer a different perspective to all parties, the net result being mini juveniles might not be so attuned to rebelliousness.
Of course, unideal parent just left them to their own devices, and picked up the pieces after.
So, a picture begins to form. The picture is called EFFORT.
Put aside the exhaustion, the busyness and as a parent get out there and make the effort to devote the time you are going to need to steer your children in the right direction to good friendships. This doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your life being a slave to raising your child the right way, but what it does mean is start being more strategic with your time. Have a special time, where you can devote some time to your child if even a half an hour to an hour a week. Devote it to something he has an interest in. Something he can look forward to and look back on even if it’s a laugh on the couch.
The other month I took my grown son to an Inline Hockey game that did not take place. It had been postponed, and then postponed. Because we were out of the area, we had to wait it out till the final pronouncement was issued. I didn’t want to hang around a bar all this time and made the suggestion how about we go to the zoo. When I relayed this to some co-workers a few days later, one was aghast that I would take my son there. I turned straight around and said why not? My son had said yes, he had taken photos, he had gotten some enjoyment – and that because as a kid he had gotten some enjoyment visiting the zoo with his mother, and had fallen back on the memory of this. Well that’s MY THEORY.
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