Bad Influences: What to do when your teen is running with the wrong crowd
Raising a teenager can be hard. It is a time where they begin to start to find themselves and learn to make their own decisions. This means testing the boundaries. As a parent, this can be a very challenging time. Add some more teenagers into the mix and things get even more complicated!
Sometimes it can seem like your teenager is great but every time they go to their friend’s house they come home more defiant and rude. You may have even heard stories about your teenager’s friend’s group and some of the things they’ve been doing (and it’s not all good). Your first instinct is that the group (or friend) is obviously a bad influence and all you want to do is ban your child from spending time with them. This may not be the best way forward though for a few reasons:
1. The friendship bonds formed within adolescence can be extremely strong, so forcing your child not to associate with them can be really upsetting for your teenager. Generally, this isn’t enough to warrant your child “getting away” with something, but forcing them not to associate without first discussing this decision with them (and letting them have a part in this process) will likely cause a rift between the two of you. It will also undermine the work you did around rules and consequences previously.
2. It’s also unlikely to stick to their minds due to the strength of these bonds. Even if they try to abide by it, it’s often difficult as they are likely to come across each other at school or other places.
3. It will isolate your child from one of their major supports. The teenage years are emotionally challenging times and our friends are generally one of our main support systems during this chapter of our lives. Taking them away from your teenager is like taking a floaty away from a toddler learning to swim in the pool (and you do not want to do this).
So we can’t force them to not associate. What now?
1. Ask yourself, is it the crowd? It can be hard to consider, as often we see these types of friends for our teenagers as almost evil incarnate in that they should know better and are deliberately steering our precious child down the wrong path. More often than not, though, this is not the case. Keep in mind that teenagers are supposed to test the boundaries at this stage so it is a normal developmental thing to act out a little. It could be that they are influencing your child, or it could be that your child is influencing them! More likely, it’s a combination of the two.
2. Use it as a chance to teach them all. Now that you are aware of this, it helps to move your mindset away from separating your child from their friends. Instead, give them the tools they can use when they are in that environment so they can make smart decisions. By doing this you may not only help your child develop responsibly, but also be a positive influence for the others in the group.
3. Teach your child responsibility and critical thinking. This will help set them up to choose the right crowd from the beginning. This will also teach them to question some of the poor decision-making that they or their friends may engage in. Head over to our other page [teaching responsibility] for more on this.
4. Set limits – If you don’t like certain things your child does when they are with these friends, set limits around them and show your teen you are focusing on the behavior and not on the person. For example, “I’m worried that you will get in trouble because Johnny was caught shoplifting the other day. I don’t want to stop you seeing Johnny as I know he is your friend, but I am also worried you will get in trouble too. So you can spend time with Johnny at his house or ours, or go to the beach or park, but you cannot go to the shops with him”. Have a consequence set up in case they break these limits and be prepared to enforce it if they make this choice.
5. Build confidence. A confident teen will have the ability to ‘say no’ if they do not agree with their peers. Instilling confidence into your teen gives them this strength.
6. Keep communication open. Encourage your teen to come to you with things that they are worried about and try not to overreact when they do (please see our page on communication [communicating with your teen] for more information on this.
If you are worried about your teen’s behavior, feel they may be engaging in risky behaviors or just would like more assistance around this, it may be helpful to see a therapist for counseling. Contact your GP for information on how to do this.
For further information on this topic, see the links below: