The Adventures Of Fatherhood – August 11, 2023

Is it micromanaging to scrutinize your teen’s friends?

Over the years, Beckett, 15, has opined we “grill” new friends when they come around. He maintains we may scare them off, calling us over the top compared to other parents. He might be right, but I am at peace with it. The right friend group is critical.

I am willing to take an arrow or two from my kid for being overprotective. On one hand, I am not worried about him trying out tricks on his skate ramp, surfing big waves or learning new bike moves. If he gets hurt, while not being reckless, it’s okay. He’s 15 and he will heal.

However, when it comes to his mental and psychological health, friends are key. I know my son. His strengths and weaknesses have been on display his whole life. He’s amazing in many ways, but he very much is also a work in progress when it comes to decision making and understanding choosing wisely. This is part of being young, and he has shown an ability to learn from previous mistakes when it comes to hanging with the wrong folks.

Nonetheless, we remain concerned about who he is hanging with and whether they are good influences for our impressionable teenager. If that’s being overprotective, then I am guilty as charged.

A general rule for us is if Beckett wants to hang out with someone or a group of friends away from the house, say on the Boardwalk or beach, we have to meet them first. It’s not that we are going to interrogate these kids, but we want to get a sense of who they are and whether we know his or her parents. There have been some cases when that requirement prevents the group from getting together. In my mind, if a kid or kids cannot have a conversation with a parent, then I know all I need to know.

When Pam and I hear a name of someone Beckett is making plans with, we remind him we need to meet. The concept is we don’t know this new friend or that friend. We want to get to know them so we can build trust. We need to be confident it’s a positive thing and good decisions will be made as a group.

I remember years ago Beckett had a group over and we didn’t know any of the kids. We told him it was fine to have them over to skate his ramp but reminded him to let them know the rules, such as wearing a helmet and no bad language.

As the group arrived, we may or may not have been watching from the house. We looked past one or two kids not wearing helmets when we saw they were experienced skaters, but it’s a deal breaker when bad language is shouted repeatedly. It’s disrespectful to us and our neighbors. A couple warnings were given, and no changes came, so we told the kids to leave. We knew in our hearts these were not the types of friends we wanted with our son. Beckett, being a younger teen at the time, was mad about it, accusing us of being judgmental.

What he doesn’t know is this reality — you are who you associate with. Friends are incredibly important to teens. I can reflect back on my own life and see now with the benefit of hindsight how some friends were good for me while others were not. It’s interesting to now reflect on some of my friends when I was Beckett’s age. Some I still consider great friends, while others I don’t connect with anymore. Some have had troubles all the way throughout their lives. Some have turned their lives around and are doing great.

In time, Beckett will understand our approach. He actually showing signs of realizing we are more right than wrong, although he’s reluctant to admit it to us.

A site I like, Raising Teens Today, touched on the topic of choosing friends wisely this week. A graphic read, “Dear teenagers … A Harvard study found that 99% of our success depends on one thing: Who you associate with. You may not realize it, but you’re like a chameleon. You can and will absorb the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of those you choose to spend the most time with. If you spend time with winners and positive thinkers, you’ll start to become like them. Spend time with negative, underachievers and you’ll become like them. Choose your friends wisely.

The post goes on, Dr. David M. Cullen conducted a 25-year Harvard study and found that your “reference group,” (i.e. the people with whom you choose to spend most of your time with), has the power to impact you and your future in a profound way.
In fact, he found that 99% of your success depends on who you call “my friends.”
If you hang with positive, successful, upbeat go-getters who are trying and growing and learning and doing their best to make something of themselves and their future, you WILL become more like them.

On the flip side, if you surround yourself with friends who don’t care, skip class, don’t try to better themselves, or couldn’t care less about their future or improving themselves, you WILL become more like them.

Why? Because you’re like a chameleon. You absorb the vibes and attitudes and behavior and “thinking” of those you hang with.

Dear teens, please choose your friends wisely. Someone once said, “You can’t change the people around you, but you CAN change the people around you.”
Think about that for a minute.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.