girl holding face while parents are disciplining her

Every parent has most likely had an experience with their child hanging out with or associating with a “toxic friend.”  Getting them to acknowledge it and empowering them to move away from such a friendship can be challenging. Parents often report that their attempts to shift their child away from negative influences usually results in the “forbidden fruit syndrome” only increasing the child’s desire to maintain that friendship.

There are ways that parents can discretely, use Behavioral Withdrawal Techniques to shift their child away from such negative influences. Before I get into that, here are seven indicators that your child might be in a toxic friendship;

  • People pleasing behavior that looks like an obsession can often indicate an imbalance of power in the friendship.
  • Your child’s friend violates rules you set for your child, what time to turn off the phone, or skipping a movie to just roam around the mall.
  • Treating adults with disrespect suggests a problem with authority and is a sign that the friend might not be the best influence.
  • Your child is belittled by this friend, subtle and not so subtle remarks are an indicator that the relationship is toxic.
  • Secret keeping encouraged by the friend.
  • Your child’s friend has anger outbursts, temper tantrums, or other acting-out behaviors.
  • Your child begins acting out, or engaging in other disrespectful behavior at home or at school.

Now, the question is, how can parents shift their child away from the negative friendship without triggering the “forbidden fruit syndrome” and thereby pushing their child deeper into the toxic relationship. The answer is for parents to use smart Behavioral Withdrawal Techniques.

Before the invention of the internet and social media, the ways parents kept tabs on their children were very different. If a parent sensed something was wrong or noticed behavior changes with their child, they might pop into their bedroom and look for a few clues, or they might listen outside the bedroom door while their child was hanging out with their friends. Once a parent had the information, they might head down to school to ask if their child could discretely be moved out of classes or lunch periods with that toxic friend.


But in today’s world, kids socialize online more than anywhere else, and if parents don’t know what is going on online, they will miss opportunities to get in front of the bus when it comes to withdrawing their child from that friendship. Once a parent has some information about that toxic friendship, here are Behavioral Withdrawal Techniques that will work;

  1. Communicate: Talk with your child about the changes you see in THEM when they hang out with this friend, don’t talk in a negative way about the friend, that will lead to your child being defensive, and most likely will push them toward the friend. Point out the concrete behavior you notice that is different than when the toxic friend is not around.
  2. Structure: Structure your child’s life as much as possible. In doing this you are creating situations where your child will have to say no to the friend because of other obligations.
  3. Information: Use the information that Social Judo sends you to get in front of the issue. For example, if you see a plan for your child and the toxic friend to tell their parents that they are going to the movies Friday night but really they plan to hang out with boys at the mall, before your child asks to do that, make another family plan, requiring your child’s presence.
  4. Be Smarter: Remember, the days of picking up the house phone and knowing who your child is talking to are long gone. If you are not monitoring what your child’s life in cyberspace is all about, you are missing opportunities to parent them.

It is so important for parents to recognize that with advances in technology, the general parenting dynamic has shifted. You are not invading your child’s privacy, you are parenting them in the space they occupy most. Think back to your social life when you were a pre-teen or a teen, imagine what it would have been like to have your own phone? To have unsupervised access to the entire world on a smartphone? Having a phone in your bedroom in the 1980’s was taboo in most households, and that was for good reason.

Parents need to be in the know enough to help if their child gets into a toxic situation. The only way that will happen, is if you have the information in the first place.