Question: I struggle with the influences and students around my son at school. He was suspended last year. I want to stay a step ahead of him. What can I do to make sure he does not become completely lost and misguided by his friends?
Answer: The long-term goal is to teach your son to make healthy networks. Teens make connections between self & friends. If you make judgments about friends or criticize, it may feel like a personal attack. Keep it to yourself! Also, if you argue with your son often, he becomes argumentative & develops like-minded relationships. He does it with you. Why not choose friends who do also? Don’t model this role.
Invite his friends to your house or to an activity. Yes, it may mean an afternoon with 14-yr olds. It won’t hurt long! Allow them to feel comfortable. See beyond their style of dress or use of slang. This is still someone’s child. Get to know them. You are not to be a friend, but you can be a “cool” authority figure!
Beyond the school setting, ensure your son has directed social choices. You can choose which football team he plays or the amount of time spent at the bowling alley or theater. It seems small, but time-limitations can reduce the level of trouble. If he knows he only has 2 hrs, he may be less inclined to waste it breaking rules. He may prefer 2 hrs of fun.
The actual goal is for him to learn how to create productive relationships, to be trustworthy and to maneuver through peer pressure. He can’t learn if you tightly restrict social movement or make him avoid certain people. Negative influences live & breathe daily. As long as you do also, it can be combated.
Next, monitor your own friendships! Ensure your own natural circle displays the values you want him to have. If not, you lose credibility with him. And as always, trust yourself!