In The Beach Story, Little Honey finds herself enjoying a group of older children who were playing tricks on other people. Little Honey was too young to know how to limit the behavior and made a mistake. Little Honey realized her mistake and chose to spend the rest of her vacation playing with her older sister, Angel, rather than repeat her mistake. However, what are ways that parents can help once they realize their children are repeating or learning undesirable behavior from other children?
Often, a common refrain among parents is their children have fallen in with a bad crowd or they are behaving badly in order to fit in with their friends. One of the most important jobs teachers and parents have is to help guide children toward their independence and help them make decisions that are right for them without regard for how they may be viewed by others.
In order to do this, one thing to avoid is criticizing the other children which may result in having your child defend their friends and may even cause them to cling more tightly to the group of friends in question. It may also be necessary to accept that children choose their friends and like to be with those who are doing things they want to do. These “bad” children may be more similar to your child than you realize. In the Beach Story it is fair to say that Little Honey has a mischievous streak and she found the older children on the beach to be both stimulating and fun.
This doesn’t mean there are no tools which can help you guide your child. First, it is fine to occasionally point out that you don’t like the behavior which is being exhibited. Second, you can also provide a simple statement of how you don’t want your child to get into trouble for doing what their friends are doing. Third, It is reasonable to set boundaries on how much time your children spend with friends whose behavior doesn’t mesh with your values.
As always our “go to” approach is to use books to teach children these important lessons. The Wind in the Willows is a classic tale which features animal friends who help one of their friends find a safer path to follow that will keep him out of trouble. There are also many children’s books focusing on not following the crowd while showing it’s okay to be different. Do you have a favorite book that you read to your little ones to help them behave and find their own path? If so, feel free to share!