I Pick My Kid's Friends to Keep Her Safe


friendship braceletsSit in a room full of parents, and you're probably going to see a lot of hand wringing, and hear a lot of worrywarts. And now I'm going to give y'all something to really worry about. There comes a day when your kid is going to start making her own friends. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Trust me. We're there. We're at the point where the kiddo is in first grade and hanging on the monkey bars with all sorts of riff raff. Or so it feels.

The class list reads like a huge pile of unknowns. Of her classmates, I would say I know the parents of exactly two kids well. A few more are acquaintances. And then there are the ones I know but can't stand, but the majority I could trip over in the supermarket, and I wouldn't have the foggiest.

It's put me in the not-so-comfy position of being the mean mom who has to put her foot down on her first grader's friends. I'm the first to admit I'm limiting her. But I haven't yet figured out how to call her potential playmate's mom and say, "So, would you have a problem if I came over and inspected your house and got a list of any known criminals who might drop by so that we can get these two crazy kids together sometime?"

So when she comes home and asks for a playdate with Susie Q, I've tired of trying to explain to the 6-year-old that I don't know Susie Q's mom, so it isn't going to work out. Instead, I've begun suggesting alternate playmates. What about Chase? Or Will? Or that one little girl in your class whose mom I went to high school with and therefore I can say with some authority is not a total whackadoodledo?

Yes, I tell her who to be friends with. And I hate myself a little more every time I do it. What kind of mom sets her kid up to be exclusionary? To form a clique?

But every time I start to get down on myself, the sane mom voice in the back of my head reminds me that we live in a rural community where plenty of people have guns in their homes, but not everyone actually locks them up. It tells me that the sex offender registry only accounts for the creeps who have been caught. It reminds that ours is a state where the "fenced in pool" requirement can mean there's a huge water hazard in the middle of a fenced-in-yard, and the 6-year-old is still refusing to actually learn to swim.

I'm not afraid of my kid making her own bosom buddies because I can't stand the idea that one day she won't be writing me notes that say "I love you, you are my best friend." Well, OK, maybe a little bit. But the real reason I'm still picking my kid's friends is one I'm not embarrassed to share: I want to keep her safe.

How do you make sure your kids' friends are "safe" options?


Image via PV KS/Flickr



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nonmember avatar Tonya

My girls are 11 and 7 and I've made some wonderful new mom friends because of allowing my kids to branch out and make new friends. I've always allowed my kids to choose their own friends unless I know that a child they're gravitating towards is trouble. There's always the local park, pool, bouncy place, etc. to meet and allow the kids to play. My youngest daughter has the sweetest little friend who we always meet somewhere, because Hell will freeze over before I allowed her to go to the child's dysfunctional home. But I just feel strongly that the poor baby's home life is not her fault, and she too deserves friends. You probably need to figure out some alternative ways to allow your child to spend time with friends of her own choosing, because the time is rapidly approaching that no matter what, you won't be able to control who she befriends. And if you continue attempting to do so, you're robbing her of valuable life lessons.

nonmember avatar Homeschool Mom

You're not alone. I homeschool, and one of the side benefits is that my girls aren't sitting in classes with kids like the boy across the way- who bullied girls in Kindergarten, and pooped on the floor in 1st grade, and caused the local school to ask social services to pay a visit to the parents over inappropriate touching. They keep guns in a locked case in the living room, but seem to have anger issues. Nothing personal, but I'm just not sorry that my girls are missing out on going to school with these kids.

koolc... koolchicken

Personally I love this, you're not crazy or limiting your daughter (at least not at this age). You have every right to know exactly who your kid is hanging out with and what kind of enviorment she's in. The one time my mother let me go on a play date with a kid who's family mine hadn't known since the dawn of time it ended in disaster. My Mum met the other mother, my friend had been over to my house before and we had plenty of playground play dates. But the day I got to go to her house her mother decided that would be a good day to run a few errands and left me (7 years) and her four kids ranging from 9 to 2 alone in the house. Needless to say my new friendship ended that day. 

So keep on encouraging your daughter to be friends with who you want her to be friends with. But if you change your mind about a friend tell your daughter. My mother sat me down and told me why I would never be allowed over Kaitlyn's house again, and I didn't forget it. It made it easier for me to understand and I didn't fight it, and it made it easier for me to figure out who I should be friends with. I would ask myself, is this person like me, is their family? If the answer was no then I didn't persue a realtionship and as a result I've never done drugs, did well in school, and don't I drink.

fave82 fave82

I agree that's it's good to have say over your child is hanging out with.... but i also think that it would be a good idea to go out of your way to get to know some of these other parents. Your kid could be missing out on some great friendships just because you don't want to leave your comfort zone. Maybe the next time they want to do a play date with a child you don't know so well you could first ask the parents and and their child to go to lunch, it may not be as thorough as going through their homes but at least it would be a start. Try to develop a relationship with some of these people so she can expand her horizons a little and also so that when she gets a little older, and you don't have as much control over her friendships, you will already be one step ahead of her and these people won't be total strangers.

fave82 fave82

Also, it may be awkward trying to get to know a totel stranger just so your kids can hang out... but if theyre a half decent parent I'm sure they'll not only understand but will feel the same way about getting to know someone their child wants to befriend as well.

meatb... meatball77

I'm a military spouse and I find your attitude sickning.  Just because you don't know the parents doesn't mean that they're not nice people.  Some people haven't lived in the same neighborhood forever.  Some people move.  It's people LIKE YOU that will make things more difficult for my daughter when we move.  However, my child will have the skills of making new friends and be able to live in a global world while yours won't be able to handle going to college because her friends aren't there.

It's not like you can't meet people at the park or take the kids to the movies.  And you know what?  Your kid can even be friends with someone whose parents you don't like because it's not ALL ABOUT YOU.

AliNo... AliNoelle

I have a simple solution to this. Get the parents phone number, call them, get together for a cup of coffee and a chat. This is what we do when our kids want to play with someone new. It's pretty simple really. I understand  that it is scary to let your kids play with someone new but it isn't that hard to make a connection with the parents. If you don't really get on with the parents then you talk to your kid about it or you invite that child to YOUR house.

lagne lagne

Why don't you encourage your child to invite friends to YOUR house? That way, you're not excluding, but you're not also limiting your child (which you definitely are).

You can even commiserate with Child's mother or father upon pickup about the fears you relay in this article.. They might feel the same way and might welcome the opportunity to get to know THEIR child's friends' families a little better. 

Another idea might be for you to start organizing playdates on some weekends.. reserve space at a local park, or encourage people to meet up at, say, Chick Fil A kid's night (or some other similar venue, if Chick Fil A isn't your thing). Encourage parents to bring their kids, and you guys can get to know each other a little better while the kids play. Again - you never know how many parents feel exactly the way you do, and many of them will probably welcome the opportunity to get to know each other.

I sympathize with your fears.. Even if you get to know other parents pretty well, you just never know. It is extremely difficult to breathe and start to let go a little.

Eversnow Eversnow

 Why not meet the parents with the children together at a neutral place like the park or your home that way you can get to know them? I do think limiting her that much is a little extreme, But I can understand where you come from with those thoughts.

phoen... phoenixmom2011

My mom always went on the first few play dates with me even if she new the parents well. The reason being she wanted to see the childs behavior in their own enviorment and how the parents and other children behaved. Once my mom was aware of the home enviorment she decided where play dates could be held.

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