The Rules of Friendship



In childhood, the doors to friendship are left open.  Whether it’s a community or school playground, neighborhood, sporting event, or trios tripling their numbers, introductions and beginning conversations can lead to great experiences.  As daughters and sons confess their troubles about old and new friends, the immediate response for parents is to step in, especially to answer the plea, “What should I do?” The rules of friendship are never easy, whether the age is six or an independent 20.  Mothering through guidance, open conversations, listening, and cheering from the side-lines leads our children through mistakes and broken hearts until they can find a way to use their wings and fly solo.

Focus on Good and New Friends

There’s always one person who interrupts a gathering to make an unkind remark, leaving the individual involved too stunned and embarrassed to reply.  Knowing how to respond in these awkward situations is a rare gift.  Too often, the solution is to walk away and feel the regret of not having said a word.

In a moment when children believe they have done nothing wrong, the power lies within them to focus on the friends who return support, unconditional loyalty, honest advice, and lift crestfallen spirits.  Not everyone is entitled to be in the inner circle; yet, those who succeed will be strikingly different in personality.  Of course, they all have one thing in common, an understanding of how to be a good friend.

“Bossy Pants”

Identifying the bossy friend is simple.  Advice is not given upon request, but forced upon the hearer unrequested.  Such situations are challenging for those who don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings. It doesn’t take long before we realize we must confront the problem.

One critical life skill is to be patient and offer kindness when conveying a response. If the demand is, for instance, “Don’t do that.  I’ll show you how it should be done.”  The goal is to demonstrate courage and strength while not inflaming the situation.  One response may be, “Thanks for offering to help, but I have a different idea that I would like to try.”

Bullying

Approximately 30% of teens are involved in bullying either as a bully, a target of bullying, or both.  Attacks can occur as physical acts or malicious teasing, whether it is in the form of stealing, damaging belongings, or name-calling and starting rumors. Many children believe reaching out for help will only escalate the situation; however, parents just have to notice a slight change of pattern or behavior, such as chronic complaints of a headache or sickness, a loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and a sudden disinterest in the activities that once mattered, including school, to recognize a problem.  The solution is not simple. It requires an open belief in the child on the part of the parents, and communication.  To understand the act of bullying, children need to describe what is happening and where. They must have a clear definition of bullying, as gossiping or intentionally tripping a student may be perceived as okay, while name-calling could be interpreted as bullying.  It helps the victim if they can voice, or at least agree upon, a solution.

Staying True to Values and Opinions

Scenarios derived from current events or fictional stories can be used as a platform to ask open-ended questions.  Just by thinking through answers and voicing them aloud, children find meaning in their opinions.  It creates an inner feeling of empowerment when the mind already knows how to respond.

At some point, every child is pressured into following the crowd.  Despite the feeling of wanting to walk away, there is always a fear of a negative response and a worry of being disassociated. These situations create a tug-of-war between doing what is right and what is easy.  If the truth is known, good friends will value your decision, especially when the boundaries make you uncomfortable.  If not, ask yourself, “Are they my friends?”  If the answer is “No,” it is okay to change the arrangement of your inner circle.


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