Teach Your Child How To Choose Wise Friendships

by John Dalrymple

friends sitting and facing away from the camera with arms around each other

“Depend upon it, a great deal depends upon whom we choose for our companions when we begin life.”1 - Charles Spurgeon

As a kid growing up in a Baptist church in the 90’s, it was a common practice to pick a life verse—for whatever reason, I chose Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

As I look back on my childhood and teenage years, I thank God for my brother and three wise friends in particular who walked with me as I grew in wisdom. They were faithful to God and to me—they made a significant impact on the man I am today.

friends sitting and facing away from the camera with arms around each other

Many young people today have hundreds if not thousands of “friends” and “followers” on social media, but wise and healthy friendships are not so easy to come by. Thankfully, the Bible lays out helpful guidance for parents as we teach our children how to choose wise friendships.

What should your child look for in a friend?

The Proverbs are filled with guiding principles about wise friends.

In terms of speech, a wise friend is:

  • Honest (Proverbs 25:18) – They always speak the truth in love.
  • Admonishing (Pr. 27:5-6, 9) – They will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.
  • Sharpening (Pr. 27:17) – They will challenge you to be more like Christ.
  • Gracious (Pr. 22:11) – They are not harsh or hurtful in their words.
  • Listening (Pr. 18:13) – They don’t run their mouth. They are quick to hear and slow to speak.

In terms of lifestyle, a wise friend is:

  • Loyal (Pr. 18:24) – They won’t abandon you or act as fair-weather friends.
  • Teachable (Pr. 9:9) – They are always learning and growing; they don’t despise instruction.
  • Self-controlled (Pr. 22:24-25) – They are disciplined in all areas of their life.
  • Faithful (25:19) – They don’t just proclaim their love, they live it out.
  • Compassion (Pr. 17:17) – They love you in both the good and hard times.
  • Wise (Pr. 13:20) – They walk on the right path and avoid foolishness.
  • Forgiving (17:9) – They cover offenses instead of repeating them to others.

Of course, the first step your child must make towards good friendships is for them to personally pursue this type of speech and lifestyle by God’s grace. Birds of a feather flock together and at the end of the day, your child will be drawn to those who are like them or have character they are pursuing.

What types of friends should your child avoid?

In addition to identifying those positive character qualities, we should also help our children be able to notice red flags just as easily—conduct that reveals foolish friends.2

A foolish friend is:

  • Angry (Pr. 22:24-25) – They will influence you and get you in trouble.
  • Bullying (Pr. 1:10-19) – They prey on the innocent and invite others to join in.
  • Disrespectful (Pr. 30:17) – They dishonor their authorities and suffer grim consequences.
  • Materialistic (Pr. 21:26) – They are consumed with the things of the world.
  • Exploiting (Pr. 14:20; 9:4, 6-7) – They maintain friendships as long as it benefits them.
  • Indulgent (Pr. 23:20-21) – They are ruled by their appetites and lack self-control.
  • Foolish (Pr. 13:20) – They act without thinking and will lead you on a path to ruin.
  • Flattering (Pr. 29:5) – They say to your face what they would never say behind your back.
  • Slandering (16:28) – They say behind your back what they would never say to your face.
  • Unbelieving (2 Cor 6:14-15) – They are going a different direction and will pull you away from Christ. [3]

In one of his letters to the church at Corinth where the Apostle Paul was addressing bad theology and sinful lifestyle, he reminds them of the influence of companions. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV)

Should you choose friends for your children?

When your kids are young, it is easy (and healthy) to organize play dates and create an environment for your kids to establish wise friendships. But as they get older, it becomes more and more important for you to train and teach your children to use discernment when choosing who they will spend time with.

In his book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, Paul David Tripp observes,

“The choice of companions is a very serious matter, but it is also a place where we surrender control to a maturing child. The goal of parenting is not to retain tight-fisted control over our children in an attempt to guarantee their safety and our sanity. Only God is able to exercise that kind of control. The goal is to be used of him to instill in our children an ever-maturing self-control through principles of the Word and to allow them to exercise ever-widening circles of choice, control, and independence.”3

Study with your child what the Bible says about friendship

Instead of simply handing your child a list of who they can be friends with or constantly tearing others down to prove to your child why certain friendships are unhealthy, search out with your child what the Bible says about identifying and pursuing wise friendships. I’ve created a Bible study with over two dozen Scripture passages you can read and study together with your child.

Friendship Study

Finally, as always, pray for God’s wisdom and for His grace that would cause your child to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)


  1. Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 30. Early Piety Eminent Piety (1 Kings 18:12) October 19, 1884. Accessed April 16, 2024.

  2. At the same time, we must guard against being judgmental or labeling other people in a certain way. Paul David Tripp points out, “We need to approach these conversations with sensitivity and love…It is critically important that we as parents avoid undermining our influence with our children by the unwise labeling of their friends, by unwarranted accusations, judgments of motives, and assumptions about the nature and level of influence of the friendship” (Tripp, p. 84-85).

  3. Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, p. 37-38. MacArthur similarly concludes, “If you do not help your children select, and help them learn to select for themselves, the right kind of companions, the wrong kind of companions will inevitably select them. The responsibility of teaching children how to choose their friends wisely is therefore a fundamental element of successful biblical parenting” (John MacArthur, Successful Christian Parenting, p. 88).

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