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Teach Your Kids about Friendship

Growing up, there was a lot my parents did that I now hope to improve upon as a parent - or do differently. But one thing I appreciate that my parents did for the family was putting a strong emphasis on good people skills. My parents taught me and my sisters how to get along with others, even if others were very different from our family. As I have gotten older, my parents’ tips and advice have come in handy on numerous occasions. And now, I want to do my best to teach my kids about what it means to be a good friend, look for good friends, and how to get along with anyone and everyone.

I spend a lot of time teaching my kids how to be kind to others: how to be respectful, selfless, and look for those that need a friend or a helping hand. I want them to be kind to everyone. But who they choose as their closest friends needs to be done carefully. I believe you are guilty by association, and you become like those you surround yourself with. So, if I believe this, that means I want to surround myself with people that represent what I want to be, or how I want to live my life, too. Hopefully, by teaching my children this at a young age, they can save themselves some trouble when they hit the teenage years (hopefully… fingers crossed).

Recently, my daughter was with a big group of her friends. Overall, they are lovely little girls, and each one had a lot of fun. But, I saw some attitudes and character displays that were not appealing to me. To say it directly, had my daughter been the one to say those mean things to someone else or act in a disrespectful way, or permanently leave a mark on someone else’s wall, she would be in big trouble! Thankfully, none of this came from her, but we both witnessed this behavior and it offered the perfect opportunity to discuss choosing friends wisely. We talked about how even though these two other girls were fun to play with, they did not always make the best choices. She understood that even though the hurtful words did not come from her lips, those words left another friend hurt. I tried to keep our talk and the lesson to the point. I made the point quickly and changed over to more light-heard topics.

A few weeks later, an interesting thing happened. Now that my daughter’s eyes were open to this behavior, she recognized it again at school. Completely on her own, she decided that she will still play with these girls at recess from time to time but is now focusing on friendships and playdates with some other girls. I never told her she had to drop a friendship because I believe in being nice to everyone. But, I advised her to look for good friends. And now she chooses to spend her playtime with a couple of other girls that share her
same principals.

My daughter is lucky to have so many friends. For her to alter who she may spend a little extra time with is not a big deal, or even probably noticeable to others. And by remaining friendly with everyone, it also saves some hurt feelings, and recess time can continue on in a fun way for all of her classmates. (Again, I put great emphasis on being nice to everybody!)

I call it the friendship challenge

Recently, I came across a fun activity on Pinterest. It is a way to challenge your little ones to be nice and friendly to others. My hope from doing this experiment is it will help my kids to make someone else smile, strengthen the relationships they already have with others, and maybe even encourage them to make a new friend.

First, my kids got an old baby wipes container and decorated it. Next, we talked about ways to be a good friend, or ways to make other people smile.

These are a few things they came up with:

  • Hold the door for someone.

  • Let someone else pick first.

  • Give a friend a hug.

  • Make a card for someone that is sick or hurt.

  • Give someone that is not a close friend a compliment.

  • Share.

  • Sit with someone new at lunch or circle time.

  • Play with someone lonely at recess.

  • Smile at everyone.

  • Help a friend in need.

We wrote down all of the ideas on slips of paper and placed them in a container (or you could write down your kids’ ideas on popsicle sticks).

Then, for the next week, each morning my kids pulled out paper and got their ‘friendship challenge’ for the day. It’s been so fun to have them report back, or even come up with new ideas to add to the container.

Between conversations with our children and fun, creative activities, we have the amazing ability to help our children establish positive friendships. And this skill will last them a lifetime!

Karissa is the co-owner of the parenting website, Adore Them strives to share positive, practical advice and resources to help you find joy in your own parenting journey!

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