The people we choose to spend time with can shape our lives irrevocably. Children haven't lived long enough to realize the value of a good friend, as well as the harm that can be caused by choosing the wrong friends.
This is why it is important as a mom to step up to guide them in choosing good, lasting friendships which will grow them as human beings, and teach them to themselves become good friends.
Here are 10 ways to teach your child about making good friends, including things to look out for concerning the wrong ones:
10 Be a good role model
Moms can help a child to choose better by modeling the type of friendships that are good for your child to have, through your own choice of friends. Children will naturally look to mom and her choice of friends as a yardstick for their own choices.
Being a role model also means showing your child how healthy friendships look by being a good friend yourself. Also, explain to your child why you have the friends you have, what you have been through together and how they support or value you as a person.
9 Good friends don't bully
While one needs to teach a child to handle the school bully, and also to have compassion for the bully - it is important to explain that you can choose which people to include in your inner circle, and which to exclude.
Someone who is constantly putting you down and speaking negative words towards you, or whose behavior is bent towards intimidating or manipulating you... isn't a good friend. Teach your child to stand up to the bully but also to set boundaries and exclude belittling personalities from their immediate social circles.
8 Good friends want the best for you
In life, there are often fair-weather friends, who only want to be there when things are going well for you. In the same way, you get friends who seem to enjoy being the picker-upper when you are down, who shrink away when you get too successful or when things are going well for you.
A good friend is there in good and bad times. Teach your child to recognize signs of a 'fair-weather' friend and a 'picker-upper'.
7 Good friends don't gossip
There is nothing more hurtful for a child than overhearing someone they have perceived as a friend talking about them. A good way to test a person's character is through considering this: If they gossip with you, they will usually gossip about you.
A good friend respects others, even those they consider less than themselves, and protects another's dignity and privacy, through honoring information about a person which is personal and private.
6 Good friends encourage through positive affirmation
It's not that your child needs a cheerleader by their side, however, humans are designed in such a way to bloom in good social soil and wilt in toxic environments.
Someone who constantly puts others down is not a good friend to choose as invariably their toxicity will rub off on your child and affect their behavior and decisions.
5 Do the 'before/after' test
There is a simple test kids can use to assess whether their friends have a positive or negative impact on their emotions and sense of self-worth: "How do I feel when I join their company and how do I feel when I leave their company?"
If you enter their company feeling okay and leave feeling terrific and empowered and encouraged, it could be a good sign that they are well-chosen friends. However, if you enter their company feeling good and leave feeling belittled and hopeless and bad about yourself, chances are you have picked the wrong company.
4 Good friends take a 'no'
Good friends don't make you do things which make you feel uncomfortable. When you explain to them you don't want something or don't want to do something, they accept your 'no' because they value you and your opinion.
A person who cannot take a 'no' does not make a good friend, as their inability to accept your 'yes' and 'no' shows a bigger problem in the friendship and it's more than likely the dynamics between you and them are built on control and manipulation, and not true friendship.
3 Unconditional love
A good friend accepts you, warts and all. They aren't always trying to fix you up and appear the perfect one who has been sent to lead you the right way and change you. Teach your child that while they might not be perfect, to many people, the special ones, they are already perfect just as they are. They don't need to be 'fixed up' to become more lovable.
Stay away from these 'friends'! Keeping an open channel of communication with your child will alert you to when they have made friends who like to expose their vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and who generally make them feel lousy.
2 Good friends share mutual interests
Something most beautiful about friendship is the ability to walk alongside another human being who shares one's heart and passion for a certain subject or activity. This might be art or cooking or church or sport or ballet.
Encourage your child to make friends in their field of interest and even facilitate these friendships through, for example, organising for 'the boys' to visit a sports match together (if soccer or cricket is there thing), or for the girls to go watch Swan Lake.
1 Good friends know you
One way your child can tell if someone is a good friend is whether another child shows interest in them as a person. A good friend will ask questions about you and listen, and then respond, and share in turn.
Teach children about the give and take of friendships and how friends mutually support and show interest in each other. A relationship should be balanced and one way to assess this balance is to ask, do I know them - and do they know me?