It may sound a little silly for grown adults to dislike their child’s friends, but the fact that we care for our children's welbeing makes it a legitimate concern. It’s also an unfortunate reality throughout the UK. According to a study conducted by Voucherbox, 41% of parents in the UK actively dislike at least one of their child’s mates, whilst one in three parents also dislike that friend’s parents as well.
Usually, such dislike is caused by the child’s attitude, for instance, 15% of those surveyed said they weren’t fond of their child’s peer because they misbehaved, whilst 12% were put off by the fact that they considered the child spoilt.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that dads are far more likely to dislike the child’s parents and are also more likely to make them aware of it. However, making it blatantly obvious that you don’t like your child’s friend or their parents is probably not the best way to deal with the complex situation. So how are parents supposed to manoeuvre through these playground politics?
1. Do Not Admit You Dislike the Child
Once you admit your strong dislike for a child, not only will other adults think you’re irrational – although chances are they also dislike their child’s friends – but that particular child is sure to become more appealing to your kid as well. It’s an age-old problem: children want what they can’t have. So, to stop a vague friendship turning into something from a Bronte novel, simply keep your feelings to yourself.
2. Do Pay Attention
Of course, you may need to be a little more hands on if the reason you don’t approve of the child is what you consider to be damaging behaviour. If the child is a bully, manipulative or tends to indulge in dangerous antics, you have every right in the world to protect your child. However, you will have to be careful and tactful so that you don’t push your child away from you and towards them. With younger children, empathy is usually your best bet, so simply talk to them and listen to how they feel to try and raise their self-esteem. Never attempt to deal with the situation directly, as this could lead to your child feeling victimised, and they won’t want to come to you with their problems in the future.
3. Think Long-Term
As children grow older, their likes, dislikes, hobbies, attitudes and even their personalities shift and alter. This means that there’s a chance your child will outgrow the annoying friend and eventually drop them from their friendship group. Alternatively, the nightmare child might transform into an absolute delight as they leave their more troublesome years. Make sure you keep an eye on how the relationship is going and you never know - the kid you wanted to avoid may become the best friend your child ever has ever had, and deservingly so.
4. Be Their Friend
One way you can make sure the odds are in your favour is by befriending the kid yourself. There’s no need to be inviting them on holiday or taking them out to football matches every other weekend, but even children can sense if they’re not welcome. Interact with your child’s friends by being interested in them and hopefully, they will come to respect you and your household. You could even try giving your child a few responsibilities around your home so they feel trusted and grown-up.
Finally, if your child is aware that their friend is a bit of a monster, make sure to remind them that their friendship circle will grow as they do. Encourage them to make new friends. Think about how many friends you had when you were young and how many have managed to stick around. Everything will be fine, you just have to support your child through these trying times.