Monday, July 11, 2016

The Company You Keep: Helping Your Kids to Develop the Right Friendships

One of the life experiences that I consider so valuable is becoming a parent after having been parented by my dad and mom. I learned their approach in dealing with my siblings and me and now I have the privilege of instilling in my own kids the values that I believe will guide them to have successful lives. I was given life lessons in a loving way by my parents and now I seek to do the same as a parent.

During my childhood, I recall both my mother and father, at different times, warning me about “keeping bad company.” By that, they meant that I should be careful of the associations I had with other people. As a child who felt he knew what was best for him, I didn’t really care to hear what they had to say. Who were they to tell me who I could or couldn’t talk to? I can make my own choices, right?

Well today, I can look in the rear view mirror and truly thank them for knowing what was best for me. So many years later, I have come to the realization that they were wise beyond words. Indeed, you are known by the company you keep.

Each day, children all over the world meet other children – at school, on the playground, at the mall, at places of worship, etc. Some of these individuals just remain acquaintances. Some of them become friends. And others become more than just friends – they become so close that a lifetime bond is created.

As life goes on, the closer that individuals are as friends, the more their lives tend to mirror each other. For instance, I met my best friend during my university studies in the late 1980s. Looking back over the years, it’s almost surreal just how much our lives mirror each other’s. We studied in the business school and have gone on to different positions in the finance and accounting field in the corporate world. We got married and started families around the same time. Over the years, our lives have changed in innumerable ways but our friendship has remained the same.

So how have we become such good friends? As I look back over the 19 years that we lived prior to meeting each other, I see that our lives were along parallel paths. We were both born in Jamaica – each as the 3rd of 4 children. Both of our dads were school principals and lay preachers at church. Both of our moms were teachers. In the early 1980s, our families migrated from Jamaica to the state of Texas. We met in 1989 at the University of Texas at Austin and have been just like brothers since. I believe that we both have enhanced each other’s lives over the years.

Rodrick (The Upbeat Dad) and college buddies
So what point am I making in this? We both come from loving homes with loving parents and siblings. When we went off to college, because of the values instilled in us at home, we tended to gravitate towards people who shared our similar values. We have a circle of friends – of different races and cultures. But our common bond is that we come from loving homes and we tend to share the same values.

We were fortunate, in that, our parents had a positive influence on us and helped us to make the right choices when we went away to school. There are so many others who we’ve met along the way who didn’t have the type of influence that we had. Many came from homes without the presence of a father. Others came from two parent households but the type of nurturing that was necessary to help them become their best wasn’t given. And it was to their detriment.

As parents, we have an obligation to guide our kids to make the right choices in life. My daughter begins high school this coming fall. It seems like only a few years ago I was there when she entered this world. Now she’s about to embark on the last few years of schooling before she goes off to college. She’s an honor roll student and quite personable. But the thing I’m most proud about is the choices she has made in having friends. Those individuals have a direct impact on her success in the classroom and ultimately in life.

I heard several years ago that working adults tend to make within $10,000 - $15,000 of their closest associates. And that makes perfect sense. Like-minded individuals tend to read the same books, go to similar social events, interact with the same type of people and so on.  It’s just one of those things in life that isn’t a mystery. You may have heard it said that we are known by the company we keep. I’ve found it to be true.

I wonder how many parents don’t know who their kids’ friends are. I also wonder how many dads are so busy working, traveling, golfing and climbing the corporate ladder that they don’t know the company that their kids keep. If you don’t know, now may be a good time to begin the process of getting to know. Here are some tips:

  • Talk to your kids' friends when they come over to your home and get to know them.
  • Offer to take your kids and their friends to a ball game or some other type of social setting. Have fun, but also observe the type of interaction that they have with each other.
  • Schedule conferences with your kids' school teachers and find out from them if they have any concern about influences that others have on your kid.
  • Share your own testimonials with your kids about your own lifelong friendships and the positive influences that you have had. This will speak volumes to them - as they will know you're not only saying it but you've lived it.

Those are just a few tips to help you get on the right track in imparting wisdom to your kids.

As parents, we have 18 or so years to have an influence on the daily lives of our children. When they go off to college or to face life’s other challenges, they will be guided by the values and principles instilled in them while they are under our care. It’s a huge responsibility that you and I have. Let’s endeavor to demonstrate our love for our kids by helping them to make the choices that will guide them into the future.

Enjoy your day,

The Upbeat Dad

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