Posted: Jun 15, 2012 9:00 AM
Everyone wants their teens to have friends and a fun social life. What happens when the friend your daughter wants to spend the most time with isn’t someone you like at all? How can you keep the peace and keep your mouth shut when you can’t stand her BFF? Keep reading for tips -- and when you should step in and say something.

When your children are young, you maintain complete control over their social life. The friends you choose for them to invite for playdates or to birthday parties may not be the same friends your child would choose on her own. Often we choose friends for our young children based on nothing more than the fact that we like to chat with their mom.

The tween years come and suddenly your child is making friends at school, on sports teams and at their social activities. These friendships are based on common interests or experiences, and may or may not be lasting. Some of these friends you may never even meet or see, because the friendship takes place only in a specific venue. This is when the friendship skills and values you have taught them kick into gear. Making decisions about who they want to spend time with is an important skill for tweens and teens to learn.

Learn about when honesty is not the best policy >>

Take inventory

When you realize that you really don’t like this particular friend, take some time to figure out why. Does she have a bad attitude, or is she actually fairly polite? Is there something about her appearance that rubs you the wrong way, like tattoos or body piercings? Does she seem to be encouraging your daughter to take risks or engage in behavior that’s unusual for her? Sometimes when you turn your questions inward, you might realize that while this friend may be different from what you expected, she is really not so bad.

Find out if you've got a gossip girl >>

Look for good points

Rather than try and point out what you don’t like about the friend, find out what your daughter sees in her instead. You may see a grumpy, grungy girl when she visits your home but maybe she’s a super honest, trustworthy person or has a great witty humor. Finding out the traits your daughter appreciates in her friend gives you insights into what she values in a friendship. Be polite when the friend visits, and try to get to know them a bit better.

"Teens are struggling to become independent so they usually resent being lectured to by adults (even if you are providing well-intended advice)," says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. "To keep the lines of communication open, resist the temptation to tell her exactly what to do or whom she should befriend. Instead, listen to what she has to say, reflect her feelings back to her, and offer examples of situations that happened to you or someone you know."

When to step in

Sometimes, despite your best intentions a friendship becomes toxic. You may need to intervene if you sense that any of the following is happening:

  • Radical behavior changes in your child
  • Bullying or abusive behavior towards your child
  • Substance abuse
  • Illegal activities, like shoplifting
  • Your child is distancing herself from other friends

Help your teens make good friendship choices -- without making them yourself.

More on teen behavior

Strategies for helping your teen make an attitude adjustment
Teen friendship trouble
Helping your teen learn to deal with rejection