2 Questions to Better Understand Your Kid's Friends
No one has more influence over a child than their friends. Especially in the years on either side of puberty, youth behavior is heavily influenced by peers. Which is a little scary, since those friends have the same underdeveloped prefrontal cortex that your own kid has. But such it is.
Good parents want to both know a little something about their child’s friends--who they are, what kind of influence they are exerting—and they want to teach their children to make good choices in the friends they select. Here are two questions that will help you accomplish both of those goals.
1.) Tell me about your friends.
Getting a child to share their thoughts and feelings with a safe/healthy adult is the holy grail of parenting. The key to unlocking it is open-ended questions, questions that a child cannot answer with a yes or no.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a magic question. Kids are still going to find a one-word answer for it. But if you are persistent, if you ask every few days, eventually you’ll be able to string together enough details to get a picture of the most influential peers.
Plus, questions that require a description will force concrete thinking. Kids are generally bad at converting their vague impressions into concrete opinions. If you can coax them into describing their friends, they might, all on their own, realize that their gut is telling them to stay away from one in particular. You might not even have to prompt them much less tell them directly. They might figure it out if you’re able to subtly convince them to convert their instincts into opinions.
2.) Do you friends make your life better or worse?
This question is a lot different than the first one. For one it’s not open-ended. It can and should be answered with a single word. But, it requires a verdict. That verdict will necessarily demand action.
For example, if your child tells you repeated stories about one particular friend who is selfish and domineering. Those stories might carry an air of dread, as if your child desperately wants to be free of that person’s influence. Your concern might be significant but still fall short of the level at which you might intervene. However, if you ask this question. If you ask, “does this friend make your life better or worse?” Your child might have the ah-ha moment which leads to a change in their behavior without a dictation from you.
Try asking your kids these 2 questions and enjoy watching how much harder they think and how much more you’ll learn about their friends.