My Teen is Keeping Bad Company

Posted by Janet Heinsler on April 07, 2015

Many parents find that their teen has been hanging out with what you consider to be the “wrong crowd.”  If you find yourself in this situation you are not alone. This could be as simple as kids who don’t take school seriously or as serious as kids who smoke pot or take drugs. Parents often find this terrifying and are at odds as to what to do.

We want our kids to have a good life and to end up better off than we are, but we see them being pressured by their peers to do the wrong things and this can be very disheartening.  

Stay calm and remember that although friends seem to have a strong influence on your child, you have more. You just need to tap into this in the right way. I hope the following suggestions will help some of you who are experiencing this to deal with it in a way you find helpful.
To start with, you need to strike up a conversation with your teen. If you are a little rusty in talking to your teen you need to work on striking up a conversation with them by just spending more time with them talking about things in general at first. Once you are back up to speed with your teen sit down and talk about their friends.

Start off by praising your teen for their positive characteristics. You probably have already expressed your dislike for their friends so it won’t hurt to start off on a different foot. You may say something like "I have to admire how much loyalty you show your friends."  Before you even bring up the topic of their friends explain to your child that part of your job is to protect them and that if you think they are involved in something that may be harmful you need to get involved.
When you bring up the subject of their friends, don’t use sweeping criticism of them or pick on their clothing or hairstyles, because when it comes right down to it these are not the real problems. It is how they are acting, what they are doing and not doing that is the problem, so talk to your child about the specific undesirable behaviors.

For example, if their friends are skipping school tell your children how you feel about that. It doesn’t hurt to tell them that you feel their friends’ behaviors could be detrimental to them. If their friends are stealing when they go to the local store, explain to them how they can be arrested and charged even if they weren’t stealing.  

Remember that your teen relates to their friends on some level so you need to make sure that you stress that the behaviors are bad, not the friends, or their clothes or hair. Make sure you give your teen a chance to share how they feel about their friends and what they think of the behaviors they engage in.
Next you need to decide what boundaries you will set concerning their interaction with their friends. Make it perfectly clear what your expectations are.  One way of reducing the effect this wrong crowd has on your child is to limit the amount of time they spend with them. You will have to come up with a structured schedule for them specifying what they are allowed to do with these friends and what times they are allowed to be with them.

The more you schedule things for you teen, especially if you schedule them during the time they are most likely to spend with them, the less likely they will be influenced by them. For example you may allow them to attend a movie with them yet not be able to hang out with them at their house. Set a curfew and decide if you will allow them to attend sleepovers or not. It will also be helpful to set up ways they can earn credit for going out on the weekends.
Finally, in order for this to work you must set up a set of consequences for when your teen fails to meet your expectations as far as whom they are allowed to be with and when. Make sure your teen knows what these consequences are so they won’t be surprised.  If possible let the teen have some say as to what these consequences will be. Of course this will have to be within reason. You should build up your own support group as far as implementing these because your teen won’t be happy when you have to implement them. In conclusion, keep the lines of communication open and try and head off problems before they get out of hand.