The happy times I had as a kid were away from our home with my brother in the woods or fields. We lived in the heart of the Cotswolds, with Prince Charles and Princess Diana a few miles away on one side and Princess Anne on the other.

It’s hard to imagine the average kid in the UK having the freedom I had at that age, roaming around for miles, hardly ever in a car and only in front of a screen for a few hours a week. Is that a shame? I think so.

Though looking back I was a bit of a terror. There was the time my brother and I stole an industrial padlock from a local stone quarry, then locked the school gates with it (chaos ensued on the Monday morning).

We spent months stealing unreleased video games from a skip in a business park and selling them.

We set fire to a field full of cow dung, where the blaze got so out of control the local fire brigade had to attend to put it out (for fear of it spreading into the houses close by).

We did things like rolling turnips down a hill to the road below, in order to watch oncoming cars swerve out of the way (and having that backfire when a particularly large one hit a cyclist who promptly went and got the police).

We would take people’s rubbish, like old TVs that were being thrown out and then set fire to them down alley ways, as they made big bangs when parts like capacitors got hot.

Much of this seemed harmless at the time, though what I’ve realised on reflection, is that it stopped when we started hanging out with kids at school who had a more stable home life.

It wasn’t that anyone told us to stop. It was more that we enjoyed being with them and playing games, cycling for miles in the countryside and hanging out for more harmless adventure (like exploring disused airfields or farmland).

So here’s the thing, I hope my 2 sons find friendship at that age like I did. Some of those friends who grounded me are still in my life today. Although I’m in Denmark and don’t see them often, the friendship we have is the type that lasts a lifetime. I’m more grateful for that than almost anything else.

Who you hang out with shapes you. As an adult and as a child.

You can be the best parent in the world, yet if your kid chooses his friends poorly then the chances are they’ll begin to make poor decisions. Give them the tools to choose wisely.

Will Smith puts it better than I can, watch this 1 minute video and see for yourself

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” – Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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