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Has friends who often get into trouble:

This is hard to prevent and even harder for
parents to deal with. When children pick their friends, they choose people who
they think are like them or are like they want to be. What if your child sees
himself as a loser, as not belonging in the in-group? He will then choose his
friends from the out-group, since his need to belong “drives” him
toward whomever will accept him. These are youngsters who are having more than
their share of problems and are more than likely getting into trouble. Your
child may just hang around with anyone who will accept him or at least not
reject him. The out-group is not choosy. They will let anyone hang around who
goes along and does not act like he thinks he is better than they are. They are
an easy home-base for children with low self-esteem and behavior problems.

Your telling him he cannot hang around with
those children does little good. You likely cannot stop him; and if you do, he
may then have no friends. Children you like and approve of will not let him
into their group. This is a fact of life in the real world of children. He is
only accepted by other youngsters with serious problems just when his need to
belong is strongest.

Your child is in a nearly impossible bind. He
wants friends, has to have friends; but his friends have more problems than he
does. What can you or your child do? Along with getting professional help, you
and he can talk honestly about the bind.

Try this approach. “Here is the problem.
You’re having some serious behavior problems. I know that and so do you. Now,
your friends also have serious problems. You and I know that’s true whether
they know it or not. The problem is as I see it is you getting into trouble
when you’re around them. That’s when you have most of your problems. Can you
agree you get into trouble mostly when you are with your friends? If so, we
have a place to start. I don’t have any answers but think this is where to
start looking for some. What ideas do you have?”

Understand there are no magic solutions or quick
fixes. You and your child need to keep talking about it. Arguing about any of
it is not going to help. If it could, the problem would be gone, for it is
nearly certain your child and you have done enough arguing to fix a thousand
problems if arguing were the answer.

A related circumstance is your child’s being
suspected of or becoming involved with a gang. This is a growing problem in all
communities. It enhances your ability to talk knowledgeably with your child if
you take a pro-active approach to learning as much as you can about gangs and
gang-related behavior in your area. The police are usually your best resource.
They can tell you about the extent of local gang activity, signs to watch for
indicating your child may be associated with a particular gang, and specialized
resources for children who exhibit signs of possible gang involvement. Be sure
you do not consult with anyone who is not a locally recognized expert in
gang-related behavior. It is a specialized area of practice in which most
therapists are not experts. It also is useful to know most children who are
involved with a gang do not deny their involvement, if asked. They may but
normally do not. Ask, if you suspect involvement; but you also need to pursue
your concerns, if your suspicions persist.

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