When I was in high school, I had a friend named Cheong. Cheong was very clever, but he became a gangster. They sold drugs and cigarettes to other kids and got into fights. At that time, I was in the best class and was generally a good student. Somehow, we became best friends and although I did not join his gang, my grades started dropping.
Once, the two of us skipped school and went to a cyber-cafe in a shopping mall. There, Cheong got into an argument with another group of students. Soon we were all involved in a fierce argument and the mall police came. The mall police dragged us to the stairwell, beat us, and threatened to call our parents if we did not give them money. What other choice did we have? We paid up.
Looking back, I was extremely lucky, because my wake up call came so early in life. I distanced myself from Cheong and got back onto the academic path. Looking back, it seems odd as to why I chose to be friends with someone like Cheong. It’s as if I were purposely looking for friends who were bad for me.
Recent research on childhood development has shown that “parenting” and even “parents themselves” are just 2 of many many factors which determine whether a child grows up happy, healthy and successful. It’s becoming increasingly clear that a person’s friends also play an important part in shaping that person’s habits and eventually, their future.
Hi, my name is Teacher Kean from Teaching Worthy. I’m a licensed headmaster with the Ministry of Education and a certified HRDF trainer. My job is to help parents become better parents. Today, we’re going to take a break from parenting to talk about something perhaps just as important – our children’s friends.
Why is it so important for us to find and keep the correct friends? Have you heard of the “crabs in the bucket” phenomenon? When you keep a group of crabs inside a bucket, they will try to escape. Here’s the problem – each individual crab has no problem whatsoever climbing out of the bucket. However, when one crab tries to climb out, the other crabs will pull him down. This ensures that no succeeds above the others no matter how hard he tries.
It’s exactly the same with people. Studies have shown that mixing good, hardworking workmen with lazy, undisciplined workmen will cause the performance of the whole group to decrease. It is much easier to tear each other down instead of lifting each other up. This is also the biggest reason why schools stream or group their students by academic performance.
Why do people keep their friends down? When our friend comes to us, excited with a new business idea, why do we tell him: “That’s really risky. You should stay at your job.”?
Because it is very painful to stand next to someone who looks better than you.
Good friends will support each other’s goals. They will positively reinforce you when you work hard towards your goals and they will whip you back in line when you behave negatively.
Next, we have to understand WHY our children are actively seeking destructive companions.
SOME CHILDREN BELIEVE THEY ONLY DESERVE BAD FRIENDS
Sometimes, children with low self-esteem seek bad companions. They secretly believe that they don’t deserve a better friend. Often, they don’t want to be reminded of their own weaknesses when standing next to a good, upwards aiming friend.
Help these children learn how to love themselves. Begin is by helping them understand their own strengths, and to develop meaningful goals. Guide them to discover their own interests and passions, and tell them what they need to achieve their goals. Sign them up for classes where they will meet other children with similar interests and goals. Finally, positively reinforce and encourage them when they show improvement. Over time, this will help them develop their self-esteem.
SOME CHILDREN WANT TO “RESCUE” SOMEONE
Many children choose companions who are bad for them because they want to rescue someone. It’s because most children still have an innocent sense of justice or compassion. Sometimes, these children want others to notice their “kindness” because they lack attention. It always looks good when you are the knight in shining armour, rescuing a friend in need.
In this situation, we have to teach this child that not everyone who is in trouble wants to improve. A lot of the time, a person who appears to be in pain has no intention of working hard and is instead going to exploit the kindness being received. Teach your child that it’s useless and harmful, to help someone who does not want to be helped. Tell him that there are things that we can control, and things we don’t control. We can ONLY control our own actions. The best way to help others is to focus on improving yourself and to lead by example.
SOME CHILDREN WANT TO BE LOYAL TO OLD FRIENDS
You may find that some children don’t want to leave bad companions because of a sense of loyalty. However, as parents, we have to educate our children, gently and with a lot of compassion, that loyalty is not the same as stupidity. A true friendship is where everyone improves and grows together.
Teach your child to love himself and to be responsible for his own choices. If your child loves himself, he would not choose someone who brings pain to his life. If your child loves himself, he has a responsibility to choose friends who bring out the best in him. To quote the great Professor Peterson: “It is a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you.”
Finally, 2 practical tips for parents:
First, invite your children’s friends to your house to hang out. You may then observe whether they are good friends for your children or not. Furthermore, those friends are less likely to negatively influence your children AGAINST you after they have met and understood you better.
Secondly, your child will initially feel a lot of stress being friends with upwards aiming and healthy people. It requires a lot of mental strength to stand next to a good person. As parents, remind your children that they should not compare themselves to their new friends. Instead, remind them to progress towards their own goals. Teach them that it’s OK to rely on their new friends for moral support.
In this video, you may have come to realise that you have a lot of self-improvement to do. Do you have toxic or damaging friends in your life? Maybe it’s time for you to move onto healthier friends as well. If you feel like your situation is unique or if you require specific advice, please do not hesitate to contact us at www.teachingworthy.com. Thank you, and please remember to share these lessons which are worth sharing.