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?
Peer pressure and friendship decisions are 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. Learning to be our authentic selves is hard. We all try to avoid this difficult work. It’s not just children that spend time trying to look and act like someone they are not. Just look at the trends on social media or television. How can we help children with this tough work?
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 Be Their Best Selves
How can we as parents and educators help children recognize that they are “enough” just as they are? How can we encourage them to be their best selves? How can we teach them to interact in a positive way with friends, even when friends are challenging? Here are some tips:
- Recognize the part that you play as a role model. Children imitate what they see around them and if you do not stand firm in your own values, 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 while this is necessary, 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”. Establish core values and talk about them often.Use books, movies or television examples to spark discussion. Look for teachable moments in every day life to demonstrate good decision making skills.
Wyatt Learns about Good Manners
Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways. What can he do? Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.