I wish I would have listened to my parents. How many times have you caught yourself saying that?
A few months back I asked my parents a “what if” question. If they could go back and change anything about how they parented me as well as my siblings, what would they change? One of the answers surprised me. They both said they wish they would have taught us to choose our friends wisely.
As I thought about their answer a little bit more I caught myself thinking, I wish I would have listened to my parents about that guy, that person, or that group of friends that I chose to hang around. At that point in my life I didn’t realize that both my friendships and relationships were forming my character not only at that particular time but for my future as well.
So, what can we do to help our children choose their friends wisely?
Be an example
We can help our children choose their friends wisely by making prudent decisions in our own relationships. Our children emulate everything we do. When we demonstrate good relationship skills, whether it be with our spouse, children, our friends or our children’s teachers and other parents, we are showing our children through our actions what it means to maintain and foster a healthy relationship.
We can also be an example to our children by cutting out any bad relationships we currently have. We may not have chosen the best relationships in the past, but that doesn’t mean we have to carry them into our future. This would be a good opportunity to show our children how to walk away from an unhealthy relationship. Letting them know that even though it may be hard, it is the right decision and the right decision is not always the easiest.
Be your ideal friend
In order to be an example for our children we have to be the ideal friend we wish we could have or better yet be the friend we would like our children to have. One of the great things we can do for our children is to help them set goals and standards for what they will and will not accept in a friendship or any type of relationship. In the following short video, Danya Bacchus, a news anchor for NBC 7 News in San Diego, gives a great summary of what it takes to choose friends wisely. Click here to watch.
Discuss the characteristics of a good friend with your children; loving, loyal, respectful of others, courageous, generous, truthful, joyful, patient, someone who will always challenge and help you to be better, someone that won’t put or pull you down. Encourage your children to live the characteristics that you come up with as a family and to surround themselves with people who treat them with these same values. Inspire them to be their ideal friend for it is in living this way that they will naturally draw friends with similar values to themselves.
Be an active part of your children’s life
Being an active parent doesn’t just mean attending sports games and school events. Being an active parents also involves being active emotionally in our children’s life. When we take the time to engage in our children’s life we are showing them what it means to be a friend. We are taking the time to show them we care. We are actively listening to their concerns, frustrations and anger as well as their triumph and success. We are sharing with them in life’s moments and helping them get through the rest. By being emotionally involved in our children’s life we are more capable of acknowledging our children’s positive choices and helping them navigate through the negative ones.
Being an engaged parent also means taking the time to sit down and discuss our children’s current friendships frequently. We can talk to them about how friends should treat one another and explain how relationships can affect us both physically and emotionally; they can help either help us to grow or bring us down. It is important for our children to know the effect that friends can have on them in both a negative and positive way. It is as Thomas Watson once said, “Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.”