What can you do if your child becomes best friends with a kid who you think is a bad influence or who you don’t think treats your child well?

I once asked this very question of a child psychologist who was giving a speech at my kid’s school. His answer was that whilst you can’t choose your children’s friends you can influence with whom they choose to play. Of course if you say to your kid, ‘I don’t want you playing with little Freddie because he is mean’, the first person who will hear this comment is probably little Freddie (word for word straight from your babe’s mouth), closely followed by his mother. You can then expect to have world war 3 on your hands!

Instead you can talk to your child in abstract terms like, ‘What do you think makes someone a good friend?’ Let your child list what his criteria is, then add a few of your own. A follow up question might be ‘Who of your friends do you think has those qualities?’ This is a great opportunity to maybe list kids that you would like your child to play with and hope that your kid will question whether little Freddie actually is a very good friend.

You may also like to suggest a play outside of school with one of the kids that you would like to encourage your child to play with. There’s nothing like a play-date to cement a friendship. 

My final piece of advice is to acknowledge positive behaviour in your own child that reflects your values and hope that it will become clear to him that being rude or naughty are not properties that make people like you, nor that you should like in another person. 

You can’t choose your child’s friends, but hopefully you will give them the tools to make good choices and surround themselves with nice kids.



(Photo courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn,

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