Learning to be a good friend is an important life skill to master. Children do not automatically know how to be a friend. Typically, many little kids are all about pleasing themselves and not worried about others. Being a good friend is not a skill that they will just pick up from hanging out with other children on the playground. It has to be taught. The best way is to set a good example yourself.
What I have always told my kids is that you need to treat others as you would like to be treated. This means you do kind things for them and use kind language. You don’t tell your friends what to do. You don’t ignore them. You don’t want to hurt their feelings.
Lexie (at age 4) was heartbroken one day when one of her friends (who is older than her by two years) decided to have a play date with some friends and didn’t invite Lexie. It was hard to explain to Lexie that her friend wanted to spend time with girls her own age.
But I use this example for the kids to not talk about events in front of friends unless they are planning to invite them too. As an adult, if you talk to your co-workers about the upcoming birthday party for your husband, they might expect an invitation, especially if they know him. But if you are talking about your upcoming family reunion, they probably won’t.
Kids can’t always make these distinctions. Sometimes when Lexie hears about other events, she tries to invite herself. I have to explain that she can’t be included in everything. You have to let your friends spend time with other friends.
As I watch Lexie navigate this area, it is sometimes hard to know when to step in and offer advice and when to let her figure it out on her own. It is difficult to watch your kids get hurt by their friends but dealing with conflict and problems in a friendship is inevitable. There will be heartache. Friends are not always easy.
Even Jase who is polite and thoughtful is going to slip up sometimes. Kids don’t always realize that what they say and do affect others. Often when Jase is teasing his sister, I remind him to think about how he would feel if she or someone else was treating him that way.
I am glad my kids have friends in the neighborhood that they can walk to school with and look forward to playing with. And I don’t know how long these friendships will last as kids’ interests will change and develop over the next few years which could cause them to grow apart. But these are their first friends and their first chance at becoming a good friend. And it is a lesson I hope they learn well.