Friendship is learned.
We learn the art of friendship by observation and practice. Whether we are aware of it or not, our kids are receiving an education in "how to be a friend" everyday. The question is, "Are they learning how to be a good friend?"
More and more, as I research friendship, I am convinced that children learn friendship best from their parents. So, this summer, I sat back and thought, "Am I intentionally teaching my kids how to be a GOOD friend?"
With all the work I do with Friending Podcast and speaking about friendship, I realized that I have kinda dropped the ball in teaching my kids what a healthy friendship is supposed to look like. So, I put my in butt in gear and decided NOW is the time to help my children cultivate a lifelong skill that will not only positively impact their physical health but also their outlook on their future.
1. HELP MY CHILD ESTABLISH "FRIENDSHIP GOALS".
I sat my kids down one morning and asked them, "How can you be a better friend?" Their answers were mature and insightful:
"I want to tell my friends that they are awesome more often..."
"I want to not be so bossy when we are playing games..."
"I want to make sure everyone is included..."
"I want to make a new friend this school year..."
A few days a later, I had them create their own "Friendship Goals" vision boards to help remind them what kind of friend they want to be.
Dear friend, please know that I am not crafty. At. All. So, this activity was thrown together because the Christmas Tree Shop had a 2 for 1 sale on blank canvases. My daughter (who is the arty one) found a box of puff paints and old markers stuffed under her bed. "
Friendship Goals" vision boards does not have to be fancy. They only need to be visual.
Both of their "Friendship Goals" vision boards are proudly displayed in each of their bedrooms and they have become a great conversation piece at bedtime. The "Friendship Goals
vision boards serve as a reminder of their own desire to be a good friend and the steps they want to take to be a good friend. It's also something that I can hold them accountable to.
2. HELP MY CHILD UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY FRIENDSHIP HABITS.
There are healthy and unhealthy friendship habits. Encouragement is a healthy friendship habit. Communicating to a friend how they are specifically awesome is encouragement. Manipulation is an unhealthy friendship habit. Giving your friend the silent treatment because they did not do what you wanted them to do is manipulation. I realized that my kids need me to show them the distinction between what is healthy and what is not.
There is a popular saying, that even I have been guilty of quoting. and that is,
"Kids will be kids."
This is true. Kids will be kids, but even still, kids need to be taught what is right. If I notice that one of kids' friendship groups have an unhealthy habit of excluding others, it's my responsibility to say, "Uh, that's not right. That's not healthy."
In the same way, when my child tells me that a friend drew them a card to help cheer them up, I need to point out that this is a healthy quality in their friendship: "Wow! I am so glad you have a friend who notices when you are upset and tries to help you feel better. This is what a good friend does."
It's important to take the time to make sure my kids know how a good friend treats others. I am always shocked when I hear of stories of children who have been bullied for years by their so-called "best friend". When asked why they let themselves be mistreated for so long many of them say, "I didn't know any different." Whoa.
3. HELP MY CHILD LEARN TO BE A GOOD FRIEND BY CULTIVATING MY OWN HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS
They say that children learn more from what their parents practice then what their parents preach. If want my kids to learn to be a good friend, than I need to be a good friend. This means, I need to show up in my friends' lives on a regular basis. I need to have healthy boundaries within my friendships. AND I need to actually go out and spend time with my friends... and not use my children as an excuse to not to.
Friendship is a lifelong skill that I am always trying to sharpen. I don't think I will ever be the "perfect friend" but I would love to become someone that my kids could say, "My mom was a good friend. I learned a lot from watching her."
Noelle is a speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor. (Friend +Mentor = Friendtor). She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.
Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship. For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.