We hear all the time in the parenting community that we don't need to force our children to share all of their toys, that they can choose a few that are special and only theirs to play with. But what are the rules whenever it comes to not forcing our kids to be friends with other children they don't really like? As adults, we pick and choose our friends based on many different things and don't feel the need to be besties with everyone, but people tend to have different "rules" when it comes to their kids.
The truth is that forcing kids to do the same is pretty unreasonable, especially whenever we compare what we're doing to our own, adult lives. Imagine if we were told that we have to have an adult version of a play date with someone who we just didn't jive with? While some might argue that this one on one time will give you moments to come to some sort of common ground, but it's not always likely. Doing the same to our kids isn't fair, either.
We really shouldn't force out kids to be friends with other children that they don't want to be friends with. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, there is the main question that arises: how do we actually navigate this as parents?
Deborah Gilboa, M.D., a family physician in Pittsburgh who specializes in parenting and youth development, and author of Get the Behavior You Want...Without Being the Parent You Hate,shared with Parents that the first thing to do is make sure that there is always an open dialogue about whats going on. "“Get kids to tell you these stories in the first place and ask questions backwards. What happened before that?”or Why might they have treated you that way?”
Opening children up so that they are able to see things from the other child's point of view is also key. “If a child has treated your kid badly, they either need to address them about it or get some help from an adult,” says Dr. Gilboa. "Kids have the right to say to other kids, ‘Hey, that’s not okay with me. Stop doing that.’"
The moral of the story really is that not only do kids not need to be friends with everyone, but the real importance lies with them knowing how to treat others.