Teaching Kids to Pick Good Friends

All kids have it in them to be mean to each other from time to time. But some kids seem to consistently be mean. I’ve told my kids to never be mean in return, but to just avoid that person if possible. Why would you want to play with someone who is nasty, when you could play with someone who is nice? Kids need to learn they can’t control others, they can only control themselves.

If a meanie wants to play with my child, my child needs to know they have permission to say ‘no thank you’. I need to teach my child it’s ok to say no and let them practice with me. I don’t force my kids to do things, I use logical consequences. My child could say, ‘No I don’t want to wash my dinner bowl.’ I would say, ‘OK but there is no dessert.’ They are free to choose, but are more likely to choose what will give them a positive consequence.  My kids don’t have to kiss or hug anyone they don’t want to. Kale (8) told me two years ago he didn’t want any more kisses! I don’t force kisses on him or try and make him feel bad. If my kids can’t say no to me, how can I expect them to say no to anyone else? If we shout at our kids or disapprove or emotionally blackmail them when they say no, we are teaching them to be a people pleaser. They need to be free to say no and know they are still loved unconditionally. On the flipside, if my child is the meanie, they need to know kids won’t want to play with them. That’s natural consequences.

Four wheel driving with BFFs :)

I’ve told my kids that in school I started hanging out with kids who wagged. It wasn’t long before I started wagging. I didn’t do very well at school as a consequence. I’ve warned them to be careful who they choose to hang around with, because they will become like them. I also told them about how I thoughtlessly said a very mean thing one day about a friend of mine, and sadly after that we were never friends again. It’s good for my kids to know I’m an imperfect human that makes mistakes, and that I’m sharing stories with them so they can learn from my mistakes instead of learning the hard way.

I’m an arty farty type and my messy desk reflects that! But I’m extremely organised when it comes to relationships. As the Boundaries guys say, you can only be as healthy as the relationships around you. I’ve drawn the picture above to teach my kids about my ‘circles’. People closest to me are my priority. To me, an unsafe person is someone who: doesn’t respect boundaries, is untrustworthy, or has no remorse for mean behaviour. I’m not here to make people like me and I'm not responsible for the happiness of others. But I am responsible for looking after my family, and if I’m healthy and happy, I’ll be able to look after my family properly, as well as be able to raise money for charity, which I love. If I allow unsafe people to be close to me, I am saying yes to a life consumed by drama, I’ll be emotionally drained, I won’t have any headspace to raise my kids properly and in extreme cases I could put myself in danger. Perhaps one day when I'm not playing the role of a protective mama bear then this may change.

I teach my kids to choose good friends through modelling, teaching them to be the friend they would like to have, through natural consequences, by reminding them they will become who they hang around and by giving them a safe place where they are free to say no and still be loved. My kids will make their own choices, but as a parent it’s my job to teach them about the positive and negative consequences of their choices so they hopefully make the best choice for themselves when they're adults and I'm no longer responsible for them.