Your children will have many influences on their road to adulthood; some good, some bad. As we raise our children, we hope we’re able to teach them to be decent, responsible people. But what happens when your child comes into contact with someone whose influence is not up to your standards? According to experts, in less serious cases, the wrong crowd may include teens who don’t take school seriously or who don’t exhibit good manners. In more serious instances however, the wrong crowd may constitute teens who drink alcohol, skip school, and behave like juvenile delinquents.
Peer pressure can have a huge influence on teenagers, and if your son or daughter is spending time with the wrong friends they might be persuaded to make bad decisions. As teens mature, a large part of the life skills they need to develop is the ability to learn how to choose their own friends. While it’s quite unusual, and sometimes unhealthy, to choose who your child is friends with when they become teenagers, it’s understandable that your instinct to do so to protect your kids be present.
How can a parent tell if their teen’s friends aren’t a good influence on them or even worse, might belong to gang? Read on for 12 warning signs your kid may be running with the wrong crowd.
Is your teen suddenly rebellious or moodier than usual? While teenagers are expected to modify their behavior from one moment to the next, it is not normal if they suddenly become a completely different person overnight. Such extreme behavior could also be a sign of social problems at school or the early signs of drug usage. Be mindful of their behavior and monitor it accordingly.
How old are your teenager’s friends? Are they the same age as they are? If your kid’s friends are much older, be careful. Older kids are into older, more mature life experiences. If the age gap is large, you have to wonder why these “friends” aren’t hanging out with people their own age. Or why your child is hanging out with them. Some gangs are known to look for younger, gullible individuals, in order to manipulate their actions and behavior. Again, be aware of who your teen’s friends are and ask questions about them. The information you gather may help fuel what you do, if anything, in order to get your child back on track.
Feeling Like Outcasts
If your teenager talks to you about feeling like they don’t fit in, it probably stems from the fact that they cannot measure up to what their peers define as “cool”. The reality is that everyone is different, and live life on their own timeline. Being a teenager is about defining yourself and becoming who you are on your own terms. Teenagers often feel a desire to fit into a certain mold. If your child feels like they’re not part of the in-crowd, they may begin to feel the despair of real isolation. Bolster your teen for being who they are. Comfort them by showing they are never alone. Such reassuring may prove exactly what your teen may need in order to not feel such despair.
Most teens go back and forth between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay dependent. But when a teen begins to show a pattern of irresponsibility, i.e. lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort – this can be an indicator that they are hanging with the wrong crowd. Each time you catch your teen acting like this, discuss with them “why” they felt the need to lie or misbehave. Get to the root of the behavior, and take productive steps to understand their point of view.
Lack of Parental Supervision
When an adult is not around to keep an eye on things (or doesn’t care), oftentimes trouble is not far behind. Have you met the parents of your teen’s friends? Are they around to supervise when your teen is visiting their house? When teens are allowed free reign, the lack of supervision can lead to dangerous activities. Don’t over due things, but be aware, set rules and boundaries. Doing so will create a framework of right and wrong which your teen will appreciate later on in life.
Declining Grades or Lack of Interest
Since teens have so much on their minds, at times, a lack of interest in schoolwork could be chalked up as normal. However, if their grades are falling sharply, they are cutting classes and pulling out of activities they once enjoyed, it is time to check-in. Ask questions. Be supportive of their evolving selves, but also put them to task. Show them that each act in life has consequences and that they are not immune to what happens when they slack off.
Not Just Teens Being Teens
Don’t chalk your child’s truancy, vandalism, bad grades, or petty theft up to “teens being teens.” When your teen seems to throw caution to the wind and not care about the consequences, it’s a warning sign. It also shows they don’t have the ability to connect what they do with what comes next: life consequences. Call your teen out when they do something wrong. Explain why what they did was wrong, and what happens to people in “the real world” when they are caught. Being a complacent parent is worse than being overprotective. Balance is always key, but better to be more of the latter than the former.
Listen and Pay Attention
While “talk” or “gossip” is usually a negative thing, it can be helpful in this instance. Having a network of other parents, neighbors, teachers and some of your kid’s peers can be very useful. Have you heard anything about the kids your teen is hanging out with? From parents? Teachers? Other kids? What can you learn about them on social media? If what you find out about them is negative, they’re probably bad news.
If your once social child starts spending an inordinate amount of time away from home or locked in his room, this is a red flag. Did he once appreciate family time, and now seems to completely resent family togetherness? If your teen starts withdrawing from you and the family, there’s a reason. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to identify what’s behind the change.
Won't Give Details
Teens who are engaging in poor behavior with their friends will often lie about where they will be so they don’t have to worry about being checked up on. If you notice that your teen is frequently not where they say they will be, it is probably a sign that they are hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Is your teen blatantly defying you? Yes, teens can be stubborn and uncooperative; however, outright refusal to receive parental feedback, communicate, or acknowledge problems is not acceptable and should be considered serious. Talk to them as people, not just teens, and be open to what they tell you. Listening is a huge part of being a good parent.
Change in Appearance
Has your child started rocking a new hairstyle or wearing radically different types of clothing than they recently wore? These could be outward signs that your child is succumbing to peer pressure and maybe falling into the wrong crowd. Support their choices to positively express themselves, but again, talk to them about why their making the decisions they are. Is it rooted in something healthy? Or are they trying to hide and mask their true selves from the world? There is a difference.