When to Intervene in a Destructive Friendship

When to Intervene in a Destructive Friendship scaled
When to Intervene in a Destructive Friendship

Once your child starts going to school, they begin to spend a significant portion of their daily social interactions with other children who you don’t know. Over the years, theorists have made different submissions about the influence of friendship on children’s behavior. Most theorists agree that interactions with friends improve a child’s social skills and increase resilience. However, some friendships can negatively influence a child’s behavior and well-being.

When our children are young, we often know who their friends are and organize ‘play dates’ with like-minded families. We also have considerable control over who our children do not play with. As children enter secondary school and definitely as they become teenagers, this ceases to be the case.  If your child has an intimate and positive relationship with their friends, it improves their self-esteem. If their friend engages in dangerous behavior, your child may likely follow suit.

Like all relationships, friends experience internal challenges from time to time. Our children need to learn how to deal with disappointment and conflict when they are older. We can’t help, as parents, to worry about our children’s behavior and well-being. Knowing when to and when not to intervene is critical.

Why Your Child Should Make Friends

Before we look at negative friendships, it is important to differentiate whether you don’t like their friends and whether they are actually destructive. Friendships are crucial and children should be able to choose their own friends as they will know with who they bond. Hopefully, we all remember moments of happiness and sunshine that have stayed with us over the years, bringing a wistful nostalgia to every remembrance. Some of those childhood friendships endure, providing each other love and support through all the tough times. Every human being has three essential needs. Firstly, we all like to belong somewhere, to be part of something whole. Secondly, we need to feel competent, and thirdly a sense of value. Friendship delivers the first of these. Children and adolescents find a sense of belonging in the relationship they have with their peers. Through encouragement, validation, and being present, friends help your child lay the foundation for who they might become. Below are other benefits of childhood friendships. Here we discuss more about what to do if your child struggles to make friends. Before you decide to intervene is your child getting this out of the relationship?

  • They develop life skills. Through friendship, children develop essential life skills for the future. They learn to interact with others, show affection, manage emotions, negotiate, develop language and values. Also, they learn to consider other points of view, which is the basis for empathy. On the other hand, they also have the opportunity to see themself through the eyes of someone else. By experiencing acceptance and validation from a friend, children develop a more positive and refined sense of self.
  • They feel loved. As intimate friends, each party receives affection, making them feel loved and wanted. In her research of the Intimate Friendship Scale, Ruth Sharabany, a professor of psychology at the University of Haifa, identified eight dimensions of what constitutes an intimate friendship. They are frankness and spontaneity, sensitivity and knowing, attachment to the friend, exclusiveness in the relationship, giving and sharing with the friend, common activities, trust, and loyalty. Children as young as five understand what’s expected of them in a friendship. These dimensions come together to make children feel loved and wanted.
  • They learn to handle conflict better. Like all relationships, there will be conflict between friends. It’s not uncommon to find children happily playing with each other this minute and then start fighting the next minute. Anything can trigger a fight. From these situations, children learn how to resolve conflict. As a parent, you may have to step in on some occasions. Not to solve the conflict yourself, but to mediate and guide them.

Here we have an article for all your child wants Is a meaningful relationship with you. Is it the case that they are looking to find something to fill a void in your relationship with them?

When to Intervene in Your Child’s Friendship

As previously stated, intimacy and behavior will determine how your child’s friendship impacts them. For example, hierarchy exists in many group friendships. There’s the pack leader, the opposition, the informant, the follower, the peacemaker, and the oppressed. Your child could slip into any of these roles on the hierarchy, and their behavior will often match their role. Watch your child’s behavior closely and intervene:

  • When your child asks for help. Some parents might make the mistake of refusing their child help because they want to toughen them up. Of course, there’s a time and place for that, but it isn’t when your child directly asks for help. Typically, children ask for help when they feel the situation is beyond them. Listen to the child, have a conversation, and find out what they want from you.
  • When their physical and mental well-being is threatened. Don’t hesitate to intervene if you think there’s a threat to your child’s physical and psychological well-being. This extends beyond the context of friendship. No one is allowed to harm your child mentally or physically, friendship or not. This doesn’t mean your child can’t be sad or angry or hurt. Those things happen in friendship, and your child has to learn to handle themself. However, you may need to intervene if you pick up signs of emotional abuse. Changes in behavior will point to this. For example, you may notice your child withdrawing further and further, losing interest in things they used to enjoy, or becoming needlessly aggressive.
  • When the law is being broken. Or when you expect it might be in the future. With this one, there’s really no ambiguity. The law and the consequences for those who break them are very clear. You need to intervene if you learn that your child is participating in illegal activities. Drugs, shoplifting, trespassing, and destruction of property can leave your child with a record. After taking care of your child, you need to reach out to the other parents to make sure they’re in the know. If the tables were turned, you’d want other parents to let you know too.
  • When you feel your child is being manipulated. Similar to the two above. If you think that your child is being to act older than they may be. For instance, going to bars or parties as they want to ‘fit in’ with children the ‘respect.’ It is unlikely that this feeling is mutual. It will either be that they are insecure in themselves and therefore looking for validation. Or that other children or adults are aware that they can talk your child into things for their benefit.
  • When they’re at the receiving end of discrimination. The world is a multifaceted and diverse place. Diversity has its upsides and downsides. Many children, including adults, sometimes belittle and denigrate people who are different from them. Most children turn the corner as their understanding of the world improves. While you definitely have to intervene when your child is discriminated against, avoid demonizing the other child. Don’t label them. Instead, see this as a teachable moment for both children. The other child gets to know the error of their ways, and your child learns more about compassion.

If you are worried about alcohol, sex, or drugs. As well as remove them from these situations if you feel they are unsuitable, it is more important that you talk to them about these issues when you are not aware. There are some links above about these isses.

How to Intervene in Your Child’s Friendship

Intervention is about doing what’s right for your child. Parents can become reactive when their children get hurt. Reacting when you’re emotional can make you mismanage the situation. Admittedly, there’s no single way to intervene because different situations, and different children, will require different solutions. Sometimes you even have to make a split-second choice between what your child might want and what needs to be done.

Witnessing your child’s friend misbehaving is a case in point. “If a friend comes over and misbehaves, you have to intervene; then have a talk with your child about him,” says Edward Hallowell, a board-certified child and adult psychiatrist. “Parents often make the mistake of accommodating a friend’s bad conduct for fear of hurting their child socially. But that can be a tacit endorsement.” Dr. Christine Carter is a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She adds: “Kids count on their parents to have high standards for their friendships; any child under 12 is not old enough to make these decisions solo.”

Other situations may require you to take different measures. They include subterfuge, listening, brainstorming, subtle guidance, or taking a hard line. With subterfuge and subtle guidance, you intervene without actually intervening. It is difficult for your teenager to reassess their relationship with that controlling friend by directly telling them to. Teenagers push back the most. Instead, make a not-so-critical observation that will plant the seed in their mind and leave it at that. For example, you might say, “You’re going out to Heather’s? You must really like her. She seems controlling to me.” Your teenager may not say anything at that moment, but they heard you.

However, where your child’s safety, reputation, mental health, or self-esteem is involved, you should take a hard line. Talk with your child about how this might affect them. Reach out to their school and other parents whose children are involved if need be.

Final Thoughts on Intervening in a Relationship

Ultimately, you need to model friendship for your child to know what a healthy friendship looks like. This helps them understand the qualities to look out for in potential friends. “Parents can’t forget that they’re modeling everything to their kids, including how to have fun and how to choose friends,” says Dr. Carter. “If all of your friends are super-needy and demanding, your child might be attracted to that type, too.”

A Real-Life Example

When teaching a class, one of the pupils was more dozy than usual. Then one of his friends asked to go to the toilet as she felt unwell. It dawned on me that something was not right. I called some other members of staff and the parents as well. When the mother of the girl who was ill spoke to me, she was not angry. She simply asked, “ was ***** involved?”. I said yes. She said she knew something like this would happen. As it happened on school grounds, there was an ambulance, and the police were informed. The girl who was ill was not a bad kid in any way. She had just been talked into try drugs by a boy with who she was friends.