When your kids are itty bitty, most of the socializing benefits the mama. As they get older, of course, kids choose their own friends. Some which you may approve of, and others, which you don’t. So what do you do as a mom when you really wish your daughter wouldn’t hang out with a particular friend?
To get an expert’s perspective on this, I asked Barb Steinberg, a master-level social worker with almost twenty years experience working with adolescent girls, for advice. Here’s what she had to say:
“You may find that your daughter has hot and cold friendships. This can make moms upset and impatient. As a mom, you want her to end the friendships/move on. Girls need to know that a bully is not the kid that attacks you in the schoolyard and steals your lunch money – a friend and a bully can be one in the same and usually are for girls – a part-time friend and part-time bully.
Friends are people who can hurt you sometimes. If our girls know this, and discuss this concept with you (or another adult confidant) then they may be better equipped to handle it when they do get hurt from their friend.
Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind:
- As a mom don’t be too negative about her friend. If you are, by middle school your daughter will start hiding her friendships from you. Ask her questions in a non-judgmental way – notice your tone of voice and facial expressions when you talk her about this situation that you may have strong feelings about. Ask her: What is this friend giving you? What do you like about her? What message is your friend sending about what kind of friend she wants to be to you? What are you looking for in a friend – what are the 3 most important qualities that you want in a friend? When is the last time this friend showed you those? Show her what she may not be seeing – or not getting from this friend. Ask with an open mind and curious tone.
- If you are too negative about this friend, your daughter may disconnect from you and begin to hide her thoughts/feelings. Imagine if you had a girlfriend with a not-so-great boyfriend and you told her all the things you didn’t like about him. Would you expect her to say “Thank you for showing me the light, I’m breaking up with him right now”? No. She most likely would not be discussing her boyfriend with you in the future. Your daughter is no different.
- Be a combination of expressive and supportive and non-judgmental. You want to hold a mirror up for her with regard to this friendship. Encourage her to examine it and decide if it is the best for her to stay in it while supporting her choice.
To learn more about Barb, sign up for her monthly emails or attend a workshop on girls’ issues, check out her website.
Written by: Nicole Basham