As the saying goes, you are the company you keep. It’s crucial in this day and age that we teach our kids how to be the friends we would like them to attract. But what exactly makes a good friend? This is a question that I recently asked my kids. They were quite thoughtful in their responses. They wanted to hang out with kids that were kind, trustworthy, and had similar interest. These are all great qualities in friendship, but I’m going to take us even deeper because as our kids grow older it will be necessary for them to understand both the qualities and character of a good friend.
There are different levels of friendship
Having a clear understanding of the dynamic of friendship will set kids up for success as they learn how to interact and develop their social skills. We are currently teaching our two older children how to "spread the love."
When kids are young it can be easy for them to get attached to one friend. When kids learn that they can be friendly to all while also maintaining fewer close relationships it sets them up for modeling the love and compassion that Jesus modeled when he walked the earth.
When you think about his ministry, although he was a pretty controversial figure, he was a friend to many. He had his twelve disciples, but even in that group he had three that got an up close look at his life, and one that he confided in regularly.
The same can go for our children. When we teach them that they will have surface level friendships as well as deep friendships, they won’t be disappointed when they don’t connect with certain people. We have to teach them how to discern which friendships are right and good for them.
Today we are going to talk 4 areas that will build strong character in your kids as you teach them how to be a great friend.
This is one we will spend a lifetime trying to navigate! Sometimes it feels like we say too little and sometimes it feels like we say too much. In our home we us the acronym “THINK” to help our kids with communication. It’s so important to teach them young that they are accountable for the words that they say and that words go a long way both toward both positive and negative ends.
T- Is it True?
H – Is it Helpful?
I – Is it Inspiring?
N – Is it Necessary?
K – Is it Kind?
Friendships can be seasonal
We always hope that people are going to stay in our lives forever. But as we grow and life changes we may be separated from those we consider dear to our hearts. I was just having a conversation with my kiddos the other day about a couple of friends that they really adore. I was explaining to them the importance of getting to know and spending time with other friends as well, just in case certain friends are sick or change schools, or there is a falling out. Better to have options than no recourse at all!
Manage your expectations
Sometimes we put expectations on our friends that they were never meant to carry. Teach your children early that they are responsible for their happiness. It’s too heavy of a burden for us to rely on any other person for our emotional health. When we teach our kids proper boundaries in friendship it sets them up to experience healthy relationships. They should know where the extent of their friendships begins and ends!
Teach them how to work through their issues - oh the tattle battles you will face! Teachers combat them every day and work hard to teach our children the difference between telling and tattling. If you ever wondered exactly what the difference is, "telling" keeps us safe, while "tattling" looks to get our “friends” (and siblings) in trouble.
Sometimes my kids come home and tell me all about issues they are having with their friends. After listening and acknowledging their feelings, we sometimes role-play to figure out how we can handle our emotions while keeping our friendships intact.
While we can’t be responsible for how people respond to us, my husband and I teach our kids that they are responsible for how they react towards others. Learning this young really helps kids work through the woes and disappointments that can come with trying to understand other people.
Equipping our kids for life is what we are called to do as parents. When we take our personal growth and relational health seriously we are better prepared to help our children navigate their growth and relationships in a healthy way.