When you dislike your child’s friends


Episode #103

Question of the Day:

Dear Torie, I don’t like my daughter’s friends. I thought about writing and telling you all the reasons WHY I don’t like them to justify my opinion but I think it just boils down to the simple fact that I don’t like them. I think her current group of friends are lazy, boring, and impolite.  My daughter (age 15) seems to act like whoever she is with. I want her to uphold our family values and teach her friends how to behave in our home (interact politely with adults, clean up after yourself, PLAY rather than watch TV, etc.). Instead of being the leader, she follows their bad behavior when they are here. I like having the house kids feel comfortable hanging out in. I like that my daughter invites her friends over. I should be grateful they aren’t sneaking out doing drugs or getting into trouble. I realize it could be worse but having them around is very triggering for me. What do you do when your house is full of people you don’t like? Amanda

Parent Educator Answer: 

First, let’s celebrate what a great job you’ve done. Clearly, these teenage girls feel very comfortable in your home and, like you said, they aren’t doing anything illegal or dangerous. Let’s start with what NOT to do when you don’t like the friend’s your child hangs out with.  1. Don’t forbid a friendship. You may be tempted to voice your disapproval or declare these girls are not allowed over anymore but be cautious of this. 

-It puts a strain on your child’s relationship with you, and with her friends. Navigating adolescent friendships is hard enough without having your friends and parents at odds.

-She’ll probably tell her friends that you don’t like them, creating a drama triangle with you as the enemy. Teens bond over how annoying parents are, let her. Pushing back against your parents is part of separating and becoming an independent adult. 

  2. Don’t get too involved. You never know what life lessons they are learning by choosing these girls. Maybe being with judgmental girls, taught her she wants to be less judgmental herself? Maybe she is working up the courage to take on a leadership role and feels safe experimenting with these “boring” girls? Friendships help us figure out who we want to be. If moms come in and dictate who the kid should be friends with, the kids miss out on this important developmental skill set.  3. Don’t expect loyalty or consistency. Kids change friends frequently, especially between the ages of 10-20. They try on friends like they try on outfits in a clothing store. Do I like the way this feels? Do I like how it looks? Is it trendy? Is it me? Go with the friendship flow. See the good in every friend your child has.  Be a good hostess, try to get to know your daughter’s friends, but don’t get too attached.  Sometimes, we get triggered because we need to establish some rules and/or boundaries.  HOUSE RULES are rules that everyone in your home agrees to obey 100% of the time.  Examples: No hitting or hurting, no name calling, no cell phones at the dinner table, take your shoes off when you enter, food stays in the kitchen, etc.  They should be very clear and obvious when violated and apply to everyone, everyday. “Be nice” isn’t a good house rule because there are many subjective opinions about what nice means.  Is there a “House Rule” you’d like to enforce with your daughter’s friends that would make you feel more comfortable having them in your home?  My husband likes to say we have a house rule that “We don’t watch other people work.” He thinks if you see someone working, you should jump up to help. This is not a house rule because he violates it all the time! My kids and husband have been watching me work without helping for YEARS!  We could, however, communicate this as a value that “you don’t watch people work.” Now that our kids are older, if they want to bring friends around, we could announce “In our family, if you see someone working, please offer to help.” This isn’t a rule with consequences, just a value that we can uphold in our home.  What’s important here, Amanda, is to stay in your own business. Your daughter’s business – who she likes, who she invites over, how she behaves when she is with them, whether she enforces your rules with her friends, etc.    The friend’s business – How they act in your home, how they talk to you, whether they clean up after themselves, what activities they choose to engage in, etc.    God’s business – Teenagers (especially post-pandemic teens) are often lazy, judgmental, and impolite. Most teenagers prefer watching TV over cleaning up after themselves. Post-pandemic teens may be delayed in social skills and etiquette. Most teens prefer hanging out in houses without strict rules.    YOUR BUSINESS – You get to decide what the rules and expectations are in your house. You get to decide if you want to enforce and remind your daughter and her friend’s of the behavior you expect when they are around. You can ask them to clean up. You can share your values. You can be super polite and respectful to them. What you think inside your head, what you feel, what you say and what you do is 100% YOUR BUSINESS. Focus on these and you will feel a lot less frustrated.  

Life Coaching Answer: 

When you decided to be a house kids feel comfortable hanging out in, I’m guessing you pictured lovely, fun, polite, trustworthy, helpful kids who engage with you and your daughter in friendly and authentic ways.  Socially isolate these kids for a year, with their only interactions happening through screens, and you are going to see some delays in their social and emotional development. They haven’t been in other people’s houses, with other people’s parents, in order to learn what the expectations are for their behavior. ***The most important thing to remember is that these are not YOUR friends. You do not have to like them! It is perfectly ok to want to hang out with people your age who align with your values and act the way YOU like!***   Letting go of your expectations will help you feel more at peace.  Then, it’s time to get into integrity with yourself. I think of integrity as aligning your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  When you are thinking, “these girls are rude” but smiling and being polite, it doesn’t feel good. When we are with people we don’t like, we turn into someone we don’t like.  When we think “They shouldn’t act this way” “They should be different” or “I don’t like them”, we create negative emotions inside ourselves. When you are feeling negative on the inside, but not allowing yourself to show it on the outside, it makes it very uncomfortable. Suddenly, you aren’t relaxed and easy going. You tell yourself not to say anything rude, but inside you feel annoyed, you are just being rude to yourself instead of them.  So when you dislike someone, it’s usually because of WHO YOU BECOME when you are with them. If you could be your best self no matter who you are with, other people’s idio-synchronicities wouldn’t bother you so much. 

So first, we’ll let go of the expectations that you should like your daughter’s friends.

Second, focus on who you want to be while they are around and align with your integrity. 

Third, Separate out facts from your thoughts about the facts.

  Whenever you feel triggered, it really helps to separate the FACTS from your thoughts about the facts. I don’t know all the facts so I’m going to give some examples that may or may not be true. The goal is to deal with the problem from a neutral, factual, big picture perspective.    Fact – Your daughter has friends who spend time in your house. Fact – These friends often choose TV over outdoor activities. Fact – Your daughter doesn’t tell her friends how to behave.  Fact – The house is messier after the friends leave, than before they arrive.  Fact – When your daughter’s friends are over, the words please & thank you are rarely heard.   When you are making your list of facts, think about taking your statement to a court of law and having everyone on the jury agree with you. I started to write “These friends prefer TV over outdoor activities” but changed it to “often choose” because that is something you can track and prove. They may prefer outdoor activities but for whatever reason, choose TV. Be very careful to word your facts in a neutral way.   It’s your thoughts about these facts that are triggering for you. Change your thoughts to something more peaceful to get you back in alignment with your integrity and values.    “My daughter is learning something from these friends that I could never teach her.” “My daughter is still learning how to socialize with friends and parents at the same time.”  “I can teach these girls how to treat me and my home.”    Supermom Kryptonite: Parents “good friend” expectations Parents can have such high standards for “how to be a good friend” that it can be hard for kids to live up to their expectations. If you catch yourself saying “She’s not a good friend to you” or “That’s not how good friends behave”, keep in mind your standards might be true for a 40 year old, but kids are still figuring this all out.  Children need to have room to make mistakes, apologize, forgive, and learn to resolve conflict. If your child’s friend lies, don’t jump to “that’s not what good friends do”. Kids lie. The way we figure out that it doesn’t feel good to be lied to, is by having someone lie to us.  We learn about the value of loyalty by experiencing how it feels when someone betrays us. Friendship is a journey through social and emotional developmental stages with huge amounts of learning happening all along the way.  Let’s hold off on blanket statements like good friend / bad friend, mean girl / nice girl, etc. We are all good people who sometimes do mean things. Because of COVID and so much online socializing, you can expect to see delays in children’s ability to socialize with each other. That’s ok. The important part is they are trying, experimenting, failing, and learning from their mistakes.  

Supermom Power Boost: Reflecting on friendship

Friendships teach us a lot about who we are, what we want, what we value. When moms can suspend their judgment and ask open ended questions instead, it can help kids reflect and learn from each relationship. Try asking your child questions like:  “What do you like about these friends?” “Which of your friends would you most enjoy……studying with? Cooking with? Camping with? Skiing with? Traveling with?” If you could change one thing about your friend, what would it be?  What can you count on? In what way is this friend reliable?  In what way would you like to be more like your friend?   You can also make observations:  “I notice you always complain about the same thing after you’ve spent time together.” “Your face lights up every time you see her calling you.”  “She seems to disappoint you a lot.” Helping your child reflect on their friendships can help them make better choices and be more deliberate when choosing who to hang out with in the future.

Quote of the Day: 


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