This excerpt on nurturing good friendships comes from Steve Biddulph’s book 10 Things Girls Need Most, and I think it applies to our sons too.
Steve notes that “In Best Friends, Worst Enemies, psychologist Michael Thompson describes seven key skills that make up friendship competence and the ability to get along with others.
1. A positive view of friendship (seeing it as valuable and fun).
2. Sharing and taking turns (essential with most games and activities).
3. Feeling for others (being unselfish and caring about the welfare of her friends).
4. Regulating aggression (not lashing out when we are angry, frustrated or sad).
5. Apologising when appropriate and meaning it (genuinely being willing to admit mistakes).
6. Reading emotions (knowing what others are going through based on their looks and behaviour).
7. Trust with caution (being able to trust, but not being too gullible).”
Biddulph then goes through some practical ways to help our children with friendships.
- Be on call – be available to fit in with them and their needs when things are happening – strike a good balance between interested and available, but not intrusive.
- Be prepared for boundary pushing – stay calm, be the mature person in the situation and keep your ears open.
- Empathise with their dilemmas and help them figure out which friendship skill is applicable (either for self- or other-recognition).
- Encourage a wide friendship circle – facilitate hangouts and activities that help broaden your child’s social circle.
- Lots of little kids are unthinkingly mean, but past 8 or so, meanness becomes more intentional. Help your child to treat others kindly and avoid hateful or controlling behaviour.
- Be aware of social competition and pressures on your child – help them have friendships with older children/adults to avoid solely peer-group friendships and help them find their own path.
- Keep a look-out for bullying – either your child bullying or being bullied. Then do something about it.
Also, that word gets thrown around a lot these days, here’s a great primer of the difference between mean, rude, bullying from Trudy Ludwig
Rude = someone says or does something unintentionally hurtful and they do it once
Mean = someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they do it once
Bullying = someone says or does something intentionally hurtful and they keep doing it – even when you tell them to stop or show them that you’re upset