As your child grows, he or she will come into contact with more and more people outside your family and circle of friends. They will meet coaches, teachers, other parents, other children, and other adults. They will encounter mentors and those they simply don’t like very well.

In all of these relationships, your child is responsible for treating each person with as much dignity and respect as possible. As an adult, you have the responsibility to monitor these relationships in order to provide learning opportunities and to protect your child from harm.

This is a delicate tightrope. You want your child to respect and respond to others, but you don’t want his or her safety compromised. You want your child to understand the faith and beliefs of your family, but you don’t want him or her to develop a condescending, self-righteous attitude. You want your child to experience and explore the world around, but you don’t want him or her to be led astray by unbiblical principles and beliefs.

You must act as a mentor and a monitor for your child. The relationship you have with your child must allow him or her to be able to come to you with the particulars of these budding relationships so you can provide guidance and exert control, where necessary.

Again, pick your battles. It’s not up to you to act as referee when your child is playing with other children. Rather, keep your ears open and be aware of the tone of play. Intervene only if your child is unable to resolve difficulties with other children on his or her own. Give them a chance to do so, for a time will come when you will not be present and they will need to know how to handle these situations with other children. This is called socialization, and all of us must go through it to become positively interacting adults.

Wonder how to handle a situation? As a trusted friend or a teacher. If a problem persists with a certain playmate, go to that child’s parent and come up with a positive strategy involving both children. Don’t act too quickly, but don’t fail to act if necessary.

For your child to soar in life, he or she must develop discernment in relationships. All of us want our children to grow up with lasting, satisfying friendships that teach the value of loyalty, respect, and affection. I hope you can think back to positive childhood friends. What did they teach you about yourself? How have those friendships shaped the person you are today? Recognize that the very same thing is happening right now, today, with your own children.