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When You Don't Like his Friend

When your child was in preschool, his little buddies seemed innocent enough (don't they all, at that age?). But by the preteen years, the friends he brings home may rub you the wrong way, whether you find them rude or downright dangerous.

What's a parent to do? Often less than you might expect. Friendships are key in helping preteens form their own identity, so when your child brings home a pal you can't stand, tread carefully.

? Remember Romeo and Juliet. "Try to tolerate as much as you can before you attempt to end a friendship," says Patti Adler, Ph.D., coauthor of Peer Power. If you forbid a relationship, your child may grow even more obsessed with it.

? Be fair. While you're entitled to dislike your tween's friend, you shouldn't ban him for superficial reasons (he wears baggy clothes; he has an obnoxious laugh). But if he's truly toxic -- maybe he's pressuring your child to try drugs or sex -- you need to step in and lay down limits.

? Wait it out. Kids figure out who they are by trying on different kinds of personalities. Sometimes a child who is totally unlike yours can be a good influence -- a bolder kid may help a shy one to open up, for instance. Your child may even opt to end an unsavory friendship on his own. As he gets older, you'll have less and less say in whom he befriends -- but the guidance you give him now will teach him who he can (and can't) trust down the road.