How to Deal with Your Kid's Weird Friends
How you'd describe them: Remember Pig-Pen, Charlie Brown's filthy friend?
How your child would describe them: "His mom never makes him take a bath."
How you should handle this situation: "These are often the cases where I think it's helpful for parents to supervise and monitor, but maybe not intervene," says Goldfine. Your child is clearly overlooking this other child's flaws. Good for them! Goldfine suggests waiting until the child comes to you and asks why her friend smells funny or wears stained clothes, or talks to you about how the other kids treat him. "This could be a good opportunity to talk about the importance of good hygiene, of wearing clean clothes and of taking care of one's self." He adds that kids are more socially aware than we give them credit for, even if it might take them longer to figure things out.
As long as this child is not in danger, or putting your child's health and safety in jeopardy, step back and let the friendship run its course. He reminds us that the best behavioral models children have are their parents. "What kind of message do you want them to get from you? It's probably something like, 'As long as this person is nice to me and fun to be around, then I don't care about what other kids say.'"
3. The Obsessive
How you'd describe them: They get hung up on things, like insects, or sentient life on Mars, or opening and closing drawers over and over and over...
How your child would describe them: "They have cool toys."
How you should handle the situation: Goldfine says he often hears parents try to diagnose other people's children with psychological or developmental disorders like obsessive-compulsive behavior, autism or Asperger's syndrome. Granted, he practices in Manhattan, where every third person on the subway is either a therapist or on their way to an appointment with one. But this unhelpful habit extends far beyond the city limits. "These are heavy words, and even trained professionals are very careful with how they use them," he says. And what if this is a case of true Asperger's or OCD? "It's not contagious, and there's absolutely no harm to your child in hanging out with another kid who has one of these psychological diagnoses," says Goldfine. "In fact, it's good for them to have a variety of different kinds of friendships."
Goldfine reminds us to be aware of the impression that we're giving our kids when we criticize their friends—they really pick up on those signals. When deciding how to deal with a child whose creepy behavior bothers you more than it does your daughter or son, recall Mad Men and how Betty Draper dealt with her daughter Sally's friendship with the creepy neighborhood boy, Glen. Betty forbade Sally from hanging out with Glen, which only made Sally more eager to spend time with him. Even worse, Betty's actions made her look like an insensitive mom, pushing Sally further away.