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Caroline Rules

How to Protect Your Children From Bad Influences

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: I am a mother of three children (ages 8, 6 and 2) and my husband and I take pride in the fact that our children have manners, respect their elders and have compassionate little hearts. It has really been hard to let my kids befriend children who openly talk back to their parents and ignore rules.

Still, I don't want to tell my kids that they cannot be friends with certain children, because we have always taught them to be nice and courteous to everyone. The debate came up in our family when we were invited to a classmate's birthday party and we didn't want to go because the child is wild and disrespectful most of the time. My father always said that if you hang out with garbage, then the smell will rub off. —Amber

Caroline's Ruling: In a perfect world, everyone we encounter in our lives would act and think just as we do and get along beautifully, thereby allowing us to have the luxury of nothing to complain or worry about. Well, this isn't a perfect world, and not everyone thinks and acts as you might like them to.

I applaud you for taking the time to teach your children manners and respect, and I agree that it can be very frustrating to watch other parents allow their children to run wild with no discipline at all.

Al and I had a very unconventional approach to raising our children: We instilled old-fashioned values in them but realized that we had to teach them to survive and function in a modern world. Once in a while, they 'd come home with a friend of "questionable character," and when they did, we would have a conversation with them and make them aware that we weren't exactly thrilled with the friendship but never demanded that they end it because "we said so." This was an opportunity to watch how they handled themselves around this person and to see if they picked up any bad habits or remained true to what they were taught.

They stumbled every now and again and had to face a detention or two in the process, but they ultimately would make the decision to end the friendship on their own, in a time frame that we found to be acceptable. (Obviously we're talking about personality traits and behavior issues that were considered to be nothing more than a small distraction every once in a while. Anything more than that, and it is your duty as a parent to step in and protect your child's safety and wellbeing.)

The moral of my story is that, sometimes, we need to expose our kids to the negatives in life to show them how NOT to act. I'm not suggesting that you make regular play dates with these kids and their parents, especially if you're uncomfortable and don 't feel that you and your children blend. However, an invitation to a birthday party or a chance meeting in a park or playground every now and then isn't going to damage the values that you and your husband have instilled in your children.

Hey, you never know. You may even get lucky and be a positive influence on some of these kids.

Do you have a question for Caroline? Send it to CarolineRulesOnGlo@gmail.com and it may be selected for an upcoming column!

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How to Protect Your Children From Bad Influences
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