Middle school and the influence of friends

April 09, 2013|By Liz Atwood,
For The Baltimore Sun

The middle school years are the most mystifying time. They enter middle school in the sixth grade as little kids and exit in the eighth grade well on their way to becoming young adults. In the years in between, they try to figure out their own identities, including who their friends will be.

What do you do when you don’t like the friends your child is hanging around with? I’ve been wrestling with this question. On the one hand, I think it is impossible to dictate to my son who his friends should and shouldn’t be. He’ll probably want to do the opposite of what I say anyway. On the other hand, I worry that if he starts running with the wrong crowd, he’ll get in trouble.

After reading advice from experts and talking with his teachers, this is what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to focus on his actions. I will not tell my son he cannot be friends with certain kids. Instead, I will hold him accountable for his behavior — his grades, his show of respect and his willingness to do his school assignments and home chores.

I cannot dictate his friends, but I do have some say over the way he communicates with them. I control his phone, his iPad, the television and video games. I do hold the car keys and I can say where he does and doesn’t go. With the proper leverage, I hope I can encourage him to make the right choices.

Liz Atwood is a former Baltimore Sun features editor who teaches journalism at Hood College. She is the mother of two sons, ages 11 and 16. 
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