Friendships & Dating

Should we try to influence our children’s choice of friends?

“Theoretically, we want our children to choose their own friends (boy/girlfriends).  We believe in freedom, we oppose coercion, and we know that free association is a basic right in a democracy.  However, not infrequently a child brings home a friend whom we find unacceptable.  We may dislike bullies and snobs, or have difficulty tolerating ill-mannered children, but unless their behavior really gnaws at us, it is best to study our child’s preferences and attractions before attempting to interfere with his or her choices.

What yard sticks can we use to evaluate our child’s choice of friends?

Friends should exert a beneficial and corrective influence upon each other.  A child needs opportunities to associate with personalities different from, and complementary to, his or her own.  Thus a withdrawn child needs the company of more outgoing friends, an over protected child needs more autonomous playmates, a fearful child should be in the company of more courageous youngsters, an immature child can benefit from the friendship of an older playmate.  A child who relies too heavily on fantasy needs the influence of more prosaic children.  An aggressive child should be checked by playmates who are strong but not belligerent.  Our aim is to encourage corrective relations by exposing children to friends with personalities different from their own.

Some associations need to be discouraged.  Infantile children only feed on each other’s immaturity.  Belligerent children only reinforce each other’s aggression.  Very withdrawn children do not engage in enough social give-and-take.  Delinquent children may reinforce each other’s antisocial tendencies.

Parents cannot influence their children’s friendships unless they have contact with the friends.  Parents can invite their children to bring their friends home.  They can get acquainted with the friends’ parents.  They can observe the effects of various friends on their children.

It takes a delicate system of checks and balances to allow children the responsibility of choosing their own friends while we keep the responsibility of ensuring that the choices are beneficial.” – Dr Haim G. Ginott


“As adults our responsibility is to set standards and demonstrate values.  Our teenagers need to know what we respect and what we expect.  Of course, they will oppose our standards, resist our rules, and test our limits.  This is as it should be.  No one can mature by blindly obeying his parents.  Our teenagers’ resentment of the rules is anticipated and tolerated.  They are not expected to like our prohibitions…limits are set in a manner that preserves our teenagers self-respect.  The limits are neither arbitrary nor capricious. They are anchored in values and aimed at character-building.

The distinction between feelings and acts is the cornerstone of the new approach to teenagers.  We are permissive when dealing with feelings and wishes.  We are strict when dealing with unacceptable behavior.  We respect our teenagers’ opinions and attitudes, we do not belittle their dreams and desires, but we reserve the right to stop and redirect some of their acts.  As adults we are not our teenagers’ pals or playmates.  We are their friendly guardians, concerned enough and strong enough to endure their temporary animosity when we must uphold standards and values that protect them and society.”  Dr Haim G. Ginott