Now that I have a 7-year-old I see that as kids get older, some of the less than stellar behavior sticks. Some might blame it on poor parenting, which might be true. Others would say some kids are just inherently not nice, which might be true as well. Me, I believe that all kids have some easy qualities and some not so easy ones. It depends on your personal values as to what you consider good and bad behavior.
None of this would matter if my kid weren’t drawn toward wild kids. I can’t say I blame him. Who doesn’t love the unpredictable feeling of being around a rule breaker? But 7-year-olds are fragile. They’re still learning how to make positive choices for themselves. So I can’t say I really like it when my son asks to have a play date with one of his wilder pals.
But, in the spirit of trying to give my son a bit of freedom when it comes to choosing his own friends, I’ve come up with some ways of dealing when my kid wants to play with kids who aren’t so nice:
1. I’m honest with my kid. He’s responsible for his own behavior, even if he’s egged on by a wild friend. This isn’t easy at 7, so we have an honest conversation about expectations and consequences and I follow through.
2. I make a game plan with the other parents. There’s nothing wrong with being honest about what I expect when there’s a play date at my house — and it doesn’t have to come off as judgmental.
3. I’m open minded. If my son really likes a child, I’m willing to have that child over once. If things go well, we’ll do it again. If not, we’ll chalk it up to a few stressful hours and not do it again.
4. I keep the kids busy. Sometimes wild kids are wild because they need something to do. Let’s hear it for structured activities!
And last but not least I try to remember that as long as the kids are being safe, whatever else happens is no big deal. I wish my kid would always pick the sweet, easy friends, but that doesn’t always happen. He’ll have to figure out how to make good choices with friendships on his own. I know I did.