You can’t play with them!

I’m guessing many parents reach a point in their child’s life when a playmate they have selected doesn’t vibe with the parent’s views or hopes for their child. This might be because of the way the other child plays, the words or tone they use, the clothes they were, and so on.

What do you do when your child plays or want to play with someone you don’t like? 

Because social relationships are lifelong skills, in your conversations with your child, try to focusing more on developing character and judgement rather than “banning” a particular person. 

Discussion points with your child might be:
Do you notice that sometimes other people makes choices that are dangerous or hurtful? 
What choices do you make when someone else makes a choice that’s not ok? 
Do you feel comfortable telling them when something they are doing isn’t ok or makes you feel uncomfortable? 
How would you feel if you got in trouble for something someone else did? 
How can I help you practice safe/helpful choices vs unsafe/hurtful choices? 


Periodically telling your own stories about when you had to make a difficult decision spending time with someone you liked but who also made unsafe/unkind choices (make it up if you have to). This might be as simple as choosing not drive with a friend who drives too fast, avoiding seeing certain friends on weeknights because you tend to stay out too late with them and feel tired at work the next day, or someone you avoid at work because they gossip about others. Your child hearing how you navigate tricky relationships will help empower them to do the right thing in a difficult situation.


If children continue to spend time with someone whose actions don’t match your family values you might have to say things like: 
“I notice after you spend time with  ____, you use a disrespectful tone/unkind words/etc.”
“I want to remind you that I’m our home, that’s not ok. If you want to continue to spend time with that person, you need to remember our expectations for your behavior.”

 
Additionally, when addressing your child’s behavior and friendships explicitly approach everything with love. 
“We want to talk to you about something tricky. Because we love you and we are here to help.”
“We love you and it’s our job to help you grow up and that means helping you with tricky stuff like friendships.”
“We know we’re asking you to do something hard but we love you and know you can do it.”

Parenting is a delicate balance of feeling responsible for your child’s wellbeing and accepting that they are growing into their own person, separate from you. Developing autonomy and identity in children can often clash with a parent’s desire to help their child make safe, healthy, and wise choices. Be patient with them and yourselves as you navigate both your relationship with your child and supporting them in their relationships with others.

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