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When Your Child Is Older

Nancy Darling, a psychology professor at Oberlin College, says if your older child has a friend you think is a bad influence, you should limit how much time they can spend together.

But be careful not to judge older kids by their behavior when they were younger. Someone who was a bully or a biter at age 5 isn't necessarily a bad teen. Short says we have long memories as parents, but kids change.

And one bad play date does not mean the other kid's a bad kid, nor should it doom a friendship. We all have off days, and so you shouldn't think one bad afternoon tells you everything you need to know about the other kid. But issues that keep coming up over a period of time suggest a pattern of behavior that needs to be noted and watched.

Speaking Up

Expressing your concerns about someone else's child is not easy and should not be taken lightly. "This may actually be harder than telling someone something about their husband or wife," Hoffman says. "It’s a very tough situation."

His advice is to wait for an opening. "If the other person says, ‘I don’t know what to do with Johnny,’ it may be a good time to delicately express your concerns," Hoffman says.

But be warned. Saying something, even when prompted, may affect your friendship. And be careful that you're stating the facts and sharing your feelings rather than diagnosing or labeling someone else's child.

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