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Teaching Kids About Friendship

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This article is written by Karissa Tunis For more on this topic, check out the full Friendships or Be My Valentine collection

Growing up there was a lot that my parents did that I hope to improve upon, or even do differently. But the one thing that I appreciate them putting such an emphases on was people skills. They taught my sisters and I how to get along with anyone, even if they were very different from us.

As I have gotten older, their tips and advice have come in handy on numerous occasions. And now, I want to do my best to teach my kids about what it means to be a good friend, look for good friends, and how to overall get along with anyone and everyone.

I spend a lot of time teaching my kids how to be nice to others. To be respectful, selfless, and look for those that need a friend or a helping hand. I want them to be kind to everyone. But, who they pick for their closest friends, needs to be done carefully.

I truly believe that you are guilty by association, and that you become like those you surround yourself with. So, if I believe this, then that means I want to surround myself with people that represent what I want to be, or how I want to live my life.

Hopefully by teaching my children this at a young age, they can save themselves some trouble when they hit the teenage years (hopefully...finger crossed).

Recently, my daughter was with a big group of friends. Overall they were all lovely little girls, and each one had a lot of fun. But, I saw some attitudes and character displays that were not appealing. To say it directly - had my daughter been the one to say those mean things to someone else, or to act in a disrespectful way, or permanently leave a mark on someone else's wall, she would be in big big trouble!

Thankfully, none of this came from her, or was directed at her. But, we both witnessed this behavior and it offered the perfect opportunity to discuss picking friends.

We talked about how even though these two other girls were fun to play with, they did not always make the best choices. She understood that even though the hurtful words did not come from her own lips, those words left another friend hurt in her presence.

Overall I tried to keep our talk and the lesson to the point, but made it quickly and changed over to more lighthearted topics.

A few weeks later an interesting thing happened. Now that Mady's eyes were open to this behavior, apparently she recognized it again at school. So, completely on her own, she decided that she will still play with these girls at recess from time to time, but is now focusing on friendships and playdates with some other girls.

I never told her that she had to drop a friendship, because I believe in being nice to everyone. But, I advised her to look for good friends. And now she chooses to spend her playtime with a couple other girls that share her same principals.

But back to my point about being friendly with everyone. Mady is lucky that she has so many friends. So for her to alter who she may spend a little extra time with was not a big deal or even probably obvious to others. And by remaining friendly with everyone, it also saves some hurt feelings and recess time can continue on in a fun way for all her classmates. So again, I put such an emphasis on being nice to everybody!

Recently I came across a fun activity on Pinterest. It was a way to challenge your little ones to be nice and friendly to others. My hope from doing this experiment was that it will help my kids to make someone else smile, strengthen the relationships they already have, and maybe even encourage them to make a new friend.

I called this the Friendship Challenge-

First my kids got an old baby wipes container and decorated it.




Next we talked about ways to be a good friend, or ways to make other people smile. These were a few things they came up with:

  1. hold the door for someone
  2. let someone else pick first
  3. give a friend a hug
  4. make a card for someone that is sick or hurt
  5. give someone that is not a close friend a compliment
  6. share
  7. sit with someone new at lunch or circle time
  8. play with someone lonely at recess
  9. smile at everyone
  10. help a friend in need

We wrote down all of the ideas on slips of paper (or you could do popsicle sticks).


Then, for the next week, each morning my kids pulled a paper and got their "Friendship Challenge" for the day. It's been so fun to have them report back, or even come up with new ideas to add to our container.

I'd love to hear from you and hear how you teach your kids to be a good friend!

For more on this topic, check out the full Friendships or Be My Valentine collection

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