As a school counselor for twenty years, one of the most common problems that I talked to kids about was friendship. What do you do when a friend wants to do something that is unkind, thoughtless, or involves breaking the rules? What do you do when a friend is bossy, self-centered and treats you unkindly? This is a tough concept for us all. Relationships are messy for both children and adults.
Children and Self-Worth
One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. We all try to avoid this difficult work. It’s not just children that spend time trying to look and act like a well-publicized role model. Just look at the trends on social media or television.
Being a Best Friend
I love books that combine a good story with a good lesson. It’s even better if the lesson can be summed up in one memorable sentence. The book Hunter’s Best Friend at School does all of the above and more. Written by Laura Malone Elliott, it is the tale of two raccoons who are best friends and want to do everything together and just alike. This doesn’t normally create problems, but when Stripe shows up at school in a mischief-making mood, Hunter is faced with the choice of whether or not to follow along. He soon discovers that making the wrong choice not only means they are both in trouble, but also that he is not even happy with himself. When his mother discovers his dilemma, she teaches him a great life lesson when she says, “Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self.” Couldn’t we all benefit from her wisdom?
Three Tips to Help Children
How can we as parents and educators help children recognized that they are “enough” just as they are? How can we teach them to interact in a positive way with friends, even when friends are challenging? Here are some tips:
- Recognize the role that you play as a role model. Children imitate what they see around them and if you are not comfortable with yourself and your own value, if you are constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard, children will follow the same path.
- Recognize and encourage children in their areas of strength. Too often we focus on areas that need improvement and of course this is necessary, but make sure the balance of your interaction is supportive and empowering.
- Teach children through example and practice how to interact with peers in ways that encourage others to be their “best selves”. You can use books, movies or real life examples as role playing opportunities.
February 24-26th is a countdown special on Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Good Manners . In this book, Wyatt learns what to say to a bossy friend and how to turn a challenging situation into an empowering one for both characters. You can find the book here: http://wyatthewonderdog.com/manners