Saturday, January 3, 2009

Influence Of Kids' Friends

Your children have Friends and Acquaintances (F&A). Hopefully, you are personally aware of many, if not all, of their F&A. However, just as it is with your life away from the family, they also have many F&A of whom you are not aware. Your goal needs to be to meet as many of your child’s F&A as possible and seek to influence your child’s interactions with the unnamed F&A.

For example, answer the following questions:
1) With whom does your child eat lunch everyday (name every single person)?
2) By whom does your child sit in each of his/her classes?
3) Name every child with whom your son/daughter interacts on a daily basis.
4) Name every single child who your child observes each day and considers to be a role model.
5) Name each child who has won the admiration of your son or daughter.
6) Name each of your child’s friends.
7) Name each of your child’s F&A who has visited your home.
8) Name each person to whom your child has spoken on the telephone over the past six months.

Well, how did you do? If you’re like most parents (the ones who do not follow their kids around 24 hours a day, including their classes and lunch periods), you probably answered in the following manner:

#'s1-5 = There is no possible way to answer these completely. So, don’t feel too bad!

#'s6-7 = Hopefully, you were able to answer these two without consulting your spouse or child!

#8 = Hopefully, you can answer this one to a great extent. If you can answer it 100% accurately and completely, then you definitely deserve a gold medal! However, if you can name most of them, you’re still in the game!

O.K., you’re asking, what does it all mean? Well, it means that the Friends and Acquaintances to whom I alluded in items 1-8 are directly, strongly, and perhaps irreparably influencing your kids on a regular basis on such topics as behavior, sports, class work, fashion, vacation, music, television, movies, books, friends, other relationships, family, and books. And, as we determined, you can’t even name the kids from #'s1-5 (Don’t fret, I can’t name them all, either)!

These kids are exerting tremendous influence over your children every single day, some of it positive, but some of it might also be negative.

For example, does the person who sits in front of your child in second hour mathematics class talk about his positive Sunday church experience on every single Monday? Does the person three seats away in Science class discuss the cerebral benefits of being cool by watching MTV every waking moment? Does the “coolest” kid in the school wear t-shirts that contain inappropriate slogans? Does the person at the end of the lunch table talk about her enjoyable family outings?

All of the aforementioned scenarios, and hundreds more, are probably played out each day in your child’s life. To whom does your child listen? Your influence at home and your control over external forces that surround your child on a daily basis will greatly determine the influence that your child’s F&A have.

To whom does your child listen? In order to continue to raise your child correctly, you need to learn the identity of his/her F&A, as well as the messages that your child is receiving. Of course, you’re thinking, “How in the world can I do that”? Well, as challenging and time-consuming as it will be, it can be done! In fact, in order to prevent your child from falling victim to the wrong influences of his/her F&A, it MUST be done!

First of all, have your child invite his/her friends over to the house on a regular basis (Yes, I know that this means that you will have to clean your house on a regular basis, but it will be worth it!). By having your child’s friends over to the house on a regular basis, you will be able to witness the type of people to whom your child is attracted. Of course, while you won’t be “spying” on conversations, you will be able to pick up tips as to the kind of friends that your child has.

Other tips to learning the identity of your middle school child’s Friends and Acquaintances include attending school events (both during and after school), serving as the carpool driver on a regular basis, asking other parents, and asking your child on a regular basis and logging the names that come up regularly!

But, please remember that your middle school child’s Friends and Acquaintances are heavily influencing him/her every single day. Take the necessary steps to get to know as many of them as possible.

Paul W. Reeves

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