As parents our focus is often on ensuring our children have the right kind of friends. We arrange "play dates." We sign them up for teams and activities where they can interact with other children we deem suitable playmates. We talk with our child's teacher to see if he or she is getting along with other children in the class. We worry if we think our son or daughter might be spending too much time with questionable characters.
These are all worthy pursuits, but I wonder if we might also consider how our kids can be a "force for good" in our neighborhood. How might we help them set the tone for how things go when a group of children get together? How can we help them be leaders rather than followers? I learned a few things about this from our son and daughter-in-law.
Our daughter told me about a scene she witnessed when our son corralled a number of the neighborhood children in his already busy-with-four-of-its-own front yard.
From what she described, it appeared at least two of the neighborhood children felt more comfortable in his yard and house than in their own. Apparently no one was much concerned about their whereabouts, even at supper time, so they often lingered looking like they’d like to be fed.
It seems as though he took the lead in suggesting that perhaps his family had a role in welcoming these boys. Your sister-in- law agreed. Observe Baker house rules they must, but welcome they were to play at his house and occasionally be fed.
As a psychologist, I’m all for healthy limits and boundaries. You can’t always take on the parenting and nutritional needs of the neighborhood. A chat with the boys’ parents may be appropriate.
That being said, I was impressed by our son's kindness and generosity. His days are crazy busy; his evenings are filled with classes or kids. He has every right to insist on peace and quiet on his own turf. Many men do.
Yet, he seemed to realize these children needed something they may not be getting at home. It’s hard to say what that may be, but they obviously had their own reasons for wanting to be part of the little community of neighborhood kids often occupying his yard.
Before we cross certain kids off our child's "friend list," I'm wondering if we might also consider the opportunity we have to influence children other than our own. Perhaps we can help our child demonstrate compassion to someone with fewer friends. Maybe we can model leadership in setting the tone for how we will be with others. It's not a strategy many parents employ, but if and when they do, I'm betting there will be benefits.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends. Regardless of what any human of any age, from any walk of life might say, they’re kind of a big deal. As parents, when it comes to navigating the waters of friendship with our children, it can seem like an even bigger deal. Outside of our relationships with our offspring, the relationships they forge with peers often prove to be the most influential. Many of us parents bring our own memories of being everything from last picked for recess kickball to being bully-like King or Queen Bees. All of our experiences tend to greatly shape how we want to get in, or possibly even avoid, the entire process with our kids.
In this age of mind-blowing technological advances, easy computer/device access, and social media, merely drawing personal relationship realities from our own growing-up years may prove to be a bit lacking. We may find ourselves having to add to our “how to make and keep the right friends” toolboxes. On the 21st Century side of things, it is wise to be as aware as possible of cell phone activity and any involvement your child may have on the internet. But as we stay in tune with the “friend” environment, a greater concern may arise in, “What should we be most concerned about when it comes to our children interacting with other people?”
I know some may be thinking, “Wait. Is this all there is now? I get that tweens and teens are ‘friending’ in some ways we parents didn’t. But, I have very young kids. What about them? In addition to that, what about all of the elements of friendship that don't involve electronics? Those still have to exist. Right?”
They do. And we know this because they exist in our own, “big people” relationships. Just as our children are unique individuals - some outgoing, some more reserved - the attributes of our human expression in developing friendships as adults are much the same. At times, the answers to the questions we have regarding the types of friendships our young make and keep, can be found in our own. As with all things parenting, modeling behaviors is a powerful thing. What kinds of friends do we have as parents? What kinds of friend making and keeping skills are little eyes watching us exhibit? Do we have healthy friendships? Do our kids observe us being good friends? Do we allow ourselves to enable adult friends? Do we allow ourselves to be pulled into full-sized drama? We love to roll our aging eyes at 12-year-old girls and their dramatic relationship antics, but sometimes we have to stop rolling our peepers long enough to understand that many junior high issues don’t always get resolved in junior high. One thing that I have discovered as a dad is that I can never give my kids something I don’t already possess myself. So, if my own, current inter-personal interactions with the people in my life don’t reflect healthy friendships, it makes it pretty hard for me to guide my children along their way.
What kinds of friends do you want your kids to make and keep? What kinds of friends do your kids want to make and keep? How can you be on the same page in this crazy digital world? Here are a few suggestions:
As a parent of now-grown children, I will have to say that there is another benefit of working hard to model healthy relationships for your young. After all of those years of committing to “being dad,” it is a joy to also now be “friend.”
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
As a parent, for the most part, we have the ability to help and protect our children as they grow. We can make sure they don't go running in the streets, stick things in the outlets or consume toxic items. We can safeguard the home in which they live, so as to give them a safe and secure environment as they get older. We can try to protect them, by talking about "stranger danger" and the risks of the World Wide Web.
When it comes to helping our kids become socially adequate as they learn to make friends and understand how to be a good one, we lose some of our protective capabilities. I have three children, two boys and one teenage daughter. All three of them have their own personality, and definitely interact with others in their own way.
My 14-year-old daughter has always been a bit reserved. She will sit back, observe, and wait for others to approach her. Once she gets to know someone, or a group of people, she breaks out of her shell and becomes very outgoing. The thing about girls, it seems, is they can have a best friend one week, and the next week, that bestie is a mortal enemy. The one thing I try to instill in all my kids, is to be nice to everyone. If they see someone struggling to make friends, I want them to be the one that approaches that person, regardless of what their friends may say or think.
My twelve-year-old son struggled to make friends early on in school. It wasn't until we figured out he had issues with ADD, that he was able to turn things around. Before he began taking medication, he had a short fuse with kids his own age. He was also very spastic, so not all kids knew how to take him. When children would refuse his friendship requests, he would resort to threatening them. On one occasion, he told a young boy he was gonna stab him with his pen. I'll never forget the time I was called by the school, because my son got angry with one of his peers, pulled his pants down on the playground, and tried to pee on the poor kid. That was pretty much the last straw. We knew we had to see a doctor. Once he was diagnosed and began taking medication, he made friends much easier, and was able to deal with his emotions in a better way.
My youngest, who is six, seems to be doing fine when it comes to making friends. The problem is, he doesn't seem to understand how to differentiate from the way he and his older brother act and speak to one another, compared to the way he should interact with his friends. Just this evening, while at Mighty Mites football practice, he found out a friend from his class was on the team. I watched as they did drills together and laughed and had fun. The lady standing next to me noticed and started talking to me. She happened to be the grandmother of my son's buddy.
The boys were doing tackling drills on a dummy, when my son suddenly took his mouth piece out and yelled, "Hey Dad, this is my friend, and well . . . he . . . he . . . just watch him . . . he really . . . uhhh . . . " As he struggled to come up with the words he wanted to express, in my mind I was thinking, "Please say something positive, please say something kind, please tell me how awesome this kid is!"
Instead, I got, "Dad, watch him . . . he really SUCKS!" I didn't wanna overreact, but I also didn't want him to think that was ok to say. I immediately pointed at him to come to me. He saw the look in my eyes, and knew he had made a mistake. I explained to him how inappropriate his comment was and demanded he apologize to his buddy and his Grandmother.
The best advice I could give to a parent regarding their child's ability to make friends, would be to set up play dates with different kids when they are young. Be there to observe and coach them. As they get older and meet new people in school, be available when they are ready to talk about any issues that may come up. Also, if you have a young daughter, the complex world of female teenage drama, is a never ending discussion.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com