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What to Do When You Don't Like Your Teenager's Friends

As your children reach their teenage years they will spend an increasing amount of time with their friends. This is a normal and important part of growing up, as friendships help teens learn how to solve conflicts and provide companionship, stability and a sense of loyalty.


Rule #1 when it comes to talking to your teen about her friends: Don't criticize her friends, talk only about behaviors that you don't approve of.

Friends also help to give advice to one another and, because your teen may begin to identify more with her friends than with you at this age, they can become very influential in your teen's life.

Parents usually sense this and as a result feel compelled to intervene when they don't like their teen's friends. Peer pressure can be incredibly strong, after all, and keeping up with the "cool" crowd is enough to make even "good" kids experiment with drugs, sex and alcohol. Knowing who your teen's friends are is clearly part of being a good parent. Knowing when to intervene, and how -- and when to stay out of it -- is the hard part.

Personality Clashes: Stay Out of It

Disliking your teen's friends solely because of personality clashes is one example when you should stay out of it. Teenagers have a right to be friends with whomever they choose, assuming they are not a negative influence. Just because you don't get along with the friend, don't appreciate their slang or sense of humor, or disapprove of their orange hair doesn't mean they should not be friends with your child.

In this circumstance, it's usually best to allow your teen the chance to develop their own sense of identity and give them the latitude to be friends with people of their own choosing.

Bad Influence: Time to Tactfully Intervene

There's a good chance, though, that if you don't like your teenager's friends it's because of something deeper than personality; you're afraid the friend is involved in risky behaviors, things you don't want your own child to get involved with.

If your teen, after becoming friends with a certain group of teens, begins showing signs of risk-taking, self-destructive behaviors -- truancy, drug use, changes in personality, problems at school, etc. -- it's time to step in.

This can be trickier than it seems, as most parents know, because just coming out and telling your child not to hang around with a particular friend will practically guarantee that they will hang around with them more than ever.

Understanding Your Teen's Narcissism, and How it Relates to Their Friendships

teenager's friends

If you don't like your teen's friends simply because of personality, it's probably best to stay out of it.

Teenagers, by their very nature, are narcissistic. Criticize your teen's friends and you are essentially criticizing your own teen's ability to judge character, make good choices and act independently. Because of this, the moment you tell your teen you don't like her friends she will defend them, and her decision to befriend them.

However, if done so correctly, your teenager will listen to your opinions about her friends, and make the correct decision to no longer associate with them. The key is letting your teenager come around to this conclusion on her own, with a little guidance from you. Here's how:

  • Tell your teen that you've noticed changes in her personality, interests, schoolwork, etc.

  • Ask your teen if anything is bothering her, if she's feeling pressured at school or home, etc.

  • Don't say outright that you think it's because of her friends.

  • Don't criticize your teen's friends, only talk about behaviors.

In this way, you are setting the stage for your teen to acknowledge that her friends may be into things she's not. In time (and this may not happen for weeks or months), your teen will probably reduce the time she spends with the problem friends and then stop associating with them altogether. Using this method, you allow your teen to make her own decisions, and she won't resent you for telling her what to do.

Other Tips for Encouraging Positive Friendships for Your Teen

You can help your teen to make good choices about friendships in a variety of ways.

  • Have a positive relationship with your teen. This means showing them love, respect and kindness, and also setting boundaries, while keeping lines of communication open. Studies have shown that teens who have good relationships with their parents make better choices about friendships.

  • Be interested in your teen's activities, whether it's drama, sports, computers, etc.

  • Get to know your teen's friends, and their parents, and encourage her positive relationships.

  • Talk to your teen about independent thinking and encourage her to make choices independently, not based on the choices of other people.

Recommended Reading

How to Talk to a Teenager (and Know That They're Listening)

Study Drugs -- Use of These Dangerous New Drugs is Skyrocketing Among the A+ Student Crowd


Family Education

Focus Adolescent Services

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