Michael is so much fun, your son says. But personally you think he’s a bad kid – what do you do?
“Mum, can Michael come home with me today?” Oh no, not again. Last time he was home, he jumped on the sofa, called your child a “moron” and was generally ill-mannered. But for some weird reason your child wants to play with him. Should you lie and say you’re going to be doing something else, or should you just keep your mouth shut and invite Michael home?
You should keep your mouth shut and let your child explore this relationship freely. There is a reason your child is attracted to “opposites” or “kindred spirits”, and if you put limits on certain playmates, they will only become more interesting.
There is no getting around this other than inviting the “bad kid” home. But that doesn’t mean that you should allow him to destroy your home and invade your boundaries.
Teach the friend that when he (or she) visits your home, there are specific rules that they must follow. If he, for instance, speaks negatively of your child or others, then tell him calmly that this will not be tolerated in your home.
After the friend has gone home, you can use specific episodes as an opportunity to talk with your child about what he or she thinks about it. Is it exciting or perhaps a bit different when Michael talks that way or does something naughty?
Ask what your child would do in situations where their playmates behave badly, and discuss possible alternatives.
Advice for parents who don’t like their child’s playmate:
1. Give the child a chance, and try not to judge, but instead understand the reason for the child’s actions, which might make it easier for you to accept him.
2. Think about why this particular playmate bothers you? When we don’t like other people the problem lies almost always in ourselves, also when those people are children. Does he reflect a part of you that you’re not happy with? Why does he provoke you? Instead of judging him, try to look inside yourself for a moment.
3. Don’t make judgmental remarks about the friend to your child, but try instead to be overbearing. Invite the child home again – maybe he’ll turn out to be a nice kid who has trouble dealing with new and different situation, and needs some mirroring from you or your child.
4. Don’t prevent the playdates, since they will only become more interesting. Instead, create an environment where your child enjoys bringing friends home. Then you have them nearby and can support, guide and set clear boundaries.
5. Tell the friend’s parents if he or she does something that crosses your boundaries, if you feel you need to inform them, for instance, if they hit other children or use very bad language. Think about how you would feel if your child was causing trouble for others and no one told you, and you would not have the opportunity to talk with your child about it.
6. Never tell your child that you don’t like their friends. Tell them that he/she seems like a good friend and nice person, but that sometimes you don’t like the way they behave or the language they use. Distinguish between the person and their negative actions.
Iben Sandahl is the co-author of The Danish Way Of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World. You can follow Iben’s Facebook page or Instagram for more inspiration about Danish parenting.