Over the years working with young people, I have had many discussions on the topic of good friends and bad ones. True friends are our most treasured gifts and can have a significant impact on our success and happiness, where a bad apple (or lousy friend) can infect a group of friends or ruin a young person in many ways.
Unfortunately, most of us have had to learn the hard way that someone wasn’t a true friend, so how do we help our young children to learn the difference?
By using their television and book heroes to open conversations, and by role modeling the characteristics we want them to cultivate we can assist young people in learning to identify and nurture the key character traits that make good friends. As parents, we need to be starting conversations early with our children on what makes good friends. Young people watch us like a hawk, and this means that we must put into practice, in our everyday lives what we say. Actions speak louder than words.
Good friends motivate, encourage, inspire, and support us to be the best we can. They help us to celebrate our achievements and help us to feel valued. Our bad friends do the complete opposite. They are jealous of accomplishments, offer little support or encouragement and are often bitter and resentful.
Everyone needs friends who listen and share without distractions or interrupting. These friends understand that friendship is a two-way street. There is also a difference between active listening and distracted listening. Active listening is engaging with the speaker to clarify, and validate, while distracted listening interjects an occasional “uh huh” to sound like they’re listening.
Listening has become harder with the introduction of cell phones and social media. Cell phones are a distraction for everyone (from senior citizens to children as young as 7 years of age have phones) these days. I often challenge parents to put their phones away and be present for their children no matter what their child’s age is. If a friend is always distracted or disinterested in hearing what you have to say, then it is time to evaluate your friendship.
Young people are generally good at seeking advice from people they trust, however, sometimes they have a hard time understanding what secrets are okay to keep and what secrets they need to share with a trusted adult. But everyone, not just young people, needs someone they trust to share with, and a true friend would not gossip. If you have a friend who talks about someone else when they aren’t there, then you can be sure that they will be talking about you when you aren’t there.
Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them learn what a good friend is. It’s never too early to cultivate good friend character traits. Be sure to check them out!
Five key traits:
5) Stands up for you when you are being hurt, emotionally or physically.