The question is… Whom do I want to be friends with??!!Children can learn to make an informed choice.
(Four minute read)
Ultimately, we want our children to hang around nice kids who treat them well, make them feel good about themselves, and are positive role models. Similarly, we want our kids to be the same for their friends.
How do we teach children to choose nicer friends? In the last blog, we discussed how to elicit from children the traits they seek in a friend and to write both the healthy traits and unhealthy ones on a paper or in a notebook for future reference.
The next step is to get children to recognize which of their peers and “friends” have the healthy (positive) and unhealthy (negative) traits, and to what degree.
Why is it important to recognize the “degree” of both positive and negative traits? The truth is that we humans are quite complex. There are parts of us that are kind, warm, generous, and loving, and parts of us that are mean, begrudging, selfish, and hostile. In fact, there are many, many parts of us, and these parts come out at different times (depending on our moods and stressors.)
Thus, we don’t want to make kids think that all people are either all or nothing, good or bad, kind or mean. Instead, there are many shades of gray. At the same time, some children are nice most of the time, other children are mean bullies a great deal of the time, and some children lean somewhere in the middle.
How do we help kids learn all of this albeit in a factual, non-confrontational, non-defensive manner?
Once again, we do another social skills lesson. This time, we ask the child to think about all of their classmates and/or peers, and place each one on an imaginary line going from healthiest to unhealthiest.
Important Tip: Write the names IN PENCIL as people change and grow, and their behavioral traits can change, too. Therefore, despite that someone may have had unhealthy traits in the past, they might move more to the center or to the left over time. If the names are written in pencil, we can always erase the names and rewrite them elsewhere on the imaginary line.
Sample Chart of Girls with Healthy and Unhealthy Traits
Let’s analyze how and why the names were recorded the way they were.
In the sample above, Chaya, Sara, Rivka, Basya (and all other students on the far left) were generally nice kids. They were safe, friendly, and didn’t bother anyone in class. On the other hand, Baila and Chana were on the far right and bullied peers almost daily. Raizy and Devorah were right there in the middle and seemed to be on the fence: some days they were nice and some days they joined the bullies. Rochel was nice most of the time, but occasionally did or said mean things, and thus the “L” from her name hung out on the unhealthy side. Gitty was not a bully leader, but she was a frequent follower of the bullies. So on a day when neither of the bullies was around, Gitty was quiet. Thus, Gitty was not placed at the far right like Baila and Chana. Yitty was a follower too, but less so than Gitty, thus she was closer to the dividing line. Esther was pretty nice but she had a tiny little ‘not nice’ streak to her at times.
We ask the child to circle the names of all her friends. We then discuss where each of her friends fall on the imaginary line and why she is being treated a certain way or why she feels a certain way around some kids.
We also discuss how she wants to handle the friends who are on the unhealthy side of the chart at this point in time.
Super important: Don’t pressure kids to give up certain friendships. Instead, help them realize why they feel hurt around certain people.
Another important note: Children are drawn to relationships that are familiar and/or comfortable. In a different blog, we will discuss the environment parents can try to foster in their homes that will promote healthier relationships with friends.
Enjoy the summer sunshine!