Are Your Child’s “Friends” Really Foes?

Posted November 4, 2010 by

How can you tell when your children’s friends are actually being friendly or more foe-like? Parents of all children know how hard the challenges of negotiating cliques, bullying, and manipulation of their kids by other kids can be.  Parenting a child on the spectrum or a child who has difficulty making friends makes this situation even trickier.  Sharing information with a parent is at a bare minimum.  Knowledge of the social scene is even less.

With our younger son (who is not on the spectrum), I find by being available to talk about his friends’ intentions, I can usually prevent some troublesome situations. I can help him prepare words to say or actions take if he has shared anticipated situations with me.

One of our hopes for our other son (with Asperger’s and ADHD) as parents four years ago when he he was in first grade was to have him make a friend or two.  Not as easy as one might think.  For the child with sensory issues, negative behaviors, or poor social skills, it is almost impossible.   Combine that with the child’s lack of another’s perspective and other parents’ ignorance, there are few play dates.  (It has taken about four years, some coaching and now he does have one or two nice friends that come over to play occasionally.)

But there are no birthday invites, no sleep overs, and rarely someone to return his calls.  He wants to have more friends.  He just doesn’t understand how to be a friend.  He doesn’t understand his actions often turn people away.  As a parent, it is really getting difficult to explain to him why this is so.  He can’t grasp the concept of other people’s thoughts.

Thus, I was very surprised to see two young men from his grade show up at our house the other day to ask my son to skateboard with them.  They have never had him over or invited him to any parties and according to my son; they do not play with him at recess.  So why were they here today, I wondered.  In spite of my misgivings, I encouraged my son to go with them to skate.   He did and they soon returned with my son generously giving them a new sheet of plywood he had just gotten to build his latest backyard project.

I was disappointed, but it was his choice to give away his stuff.  The other boys had promised him they would build him a skateboard.  My son believes them.  My son thinks they are his friends.  Unfortunately, I doubt it.


Kim Stricker is a mom to two boys, an elementary school teacher, and freelance writer. She also writes a blog called lifeslikethis about the daily experiences of raising a child with Asperger’s and ADHD.

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  1. bds Report

    My daughters are adults. I’d like to share things that worked. A rule for yourself – It’s o.k. to say no. Sometimes you just know that it’s not good, but some children have a knack for making friend with the bad egg.

    Is it just that the new friend doesn’t know how to be friends yet? We talked about the need to withdraw before something distastful happened, to just wait awhile and watch. There were a few in ‘n out friends. Ask yourself – What level of bad are the friends (The drug dealer’s son, the liar who teaches his friends how to lie, or the borrower who doesn’t return things)?

    Sometimes movies or stories in the news provided an example. We also talked about the mistakes that adult neighbors made or were making. But if you feel, see and taste that it’s leading to “a no good end,” just say no and HOLD your position. You’ll love the discussions 10 or 15 years later.

  2. Mom Report

    Thank you. Very helpful. Children need to play, but how and who they play with is very important. Every child to some extent goes through a “phase” but as parents we need to nurture and guide how they go through that phase. Unfortuneately, the parents of the “bully” are often unaware of their child’s behavior or doesn’t have the skills to deal with it. Hopefully communities and schools will step in and help a child, even the bully, learn better ways of meeting their needs. I have two young boys (9 and 7) who are at a delicate time in their maturity where who and how they choose to build their friendships and using good judgement in choosing friends is going to make a world of difference in their future. Hope all works out in the end for everyone.

  3. Kim Stricker Report

    You know, until I saw these comments, I never thought about the other parents of the two kids. I wonder what was said at their homes about the new plywood that showed up. I love the message about other children “mentoring our kids in the name of friendship.” It is right on and we do need to educate our children and focus on the positive friend models they do have. I remember my mom subtly pointing out to me when I played with a certain friend, I cam home crabby and disagreeable. I couldn’t deny it…and it made me think about why I was friends with someone who made me feel that way. I soon lost that “friend”.

  4. Alison G. Report

    This is really, really tough. We are going through this right now with a not-so nice ‘friend.’ I have tried to talk to my son about her motives and he does have playdates with her that don’t make him happy but when she withdraws her ‘friendship’ he is upset and then she acts all friendly again, he is once again caught in her net. I have gone so far as to limit their contact. He is busy a lot. But it’s an ongoing battle. Good luck. To all of us 🙂

  5. hotrodlassie Report

    It is so important to watch out for mysterious friends that seem to only be using your child. I speak from experience that troubled kids will look out for what they consider “weak” kids. The “weak” kids are used for more than just free stuff. They are talked into carrying drugs, picking fights, and stealing. The “weak”
    child is seen as disposible and becomes the first one to become caught by the police.

  6. mommaeugene Report

    This is so very important as I know this is exactly one of the things that derailed my child for a while. As the parent of an only child who really wanted friends. She really did not understand what she would give up to find a place with certain peers. We are always looking for the dark bad kid to keep our kids away from and it not that kids are so evil that want to harm your child but here are a lot of confused hurt kids out there that are mentoring other kids in the name of friendship. If your child is not sure of her or his self. which most kids are not they can be easily derailed by a seemingly innocent friend. This is what most parents are fighting think and taking the emotion out and dealing with the real issues one at a time. I know that this program is transforming me to be the parent my child needs to survive these years. This slant on parent so right on for these time.



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