Making friends can be difficult for kids but making the right friends can be even more challenging. And while we all want to think that our kids are making the right choices, they probably don’t know the difference between a good friend and a bad friend.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn has a well-known saying: We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This is most accurate when it comes to children, whose development will be largely modeled after the people they spend time with.
The best way to help your child choose the right friends is to instill the proper values and decision-making skills. The worst way to help them is by telling them who they can’t be friends with or any other method of curating their relationships.
Friends are a fundamental part of any kid’s life, and I see the impact that they have every day as a life coach. I know that I can’t pick their friends for them, but here are some of the lessons that I use to help them choose the best friends.
Determine what makes a good friend
You can’t help your kid find good friends if you don’t know what “good” is. A lot of people view friends like elevators; good friends lift you up and bad friends pull you down with them. So you want friends that will lift your child up.
Look for friends that model behaviour you would like to see in your child. Just like your kid learns from your actions, they will also learn from those around them.
Look for friends that have common interests with your child, too. Nothing will solidify a friendship as quickly or as strongly as shared likes. This also means you should be nurturing your child’s passions and helping them pursue their goals. You can’t have a shared interest if your kid’s interest isn’t developed.
Determine what makes a bad friend
It can be easier to figure out what good qualities in a friend are, but it can be tough to determine what bad qualities are. It is important to figure those qualities out with your child, though.
Gossip and jealousy are two traits that are universally considered bad. It might seem like it is human nature to be jealous or to gossip, but it really isn’t. If your child’s friends are always jealous or are always gossiping, then your child will learn to be the same way.
Kids who cause drama—whether in school, during sports, or just in general—are not the kinds of influences you want for your child, either. Help them identify the impact that drama can have on those they care about, how it might impact others, and help them steer clear of “friends” who cause drama.
Also keep your eye on friendships that are one-sided. These can go either way, but if your child and their friend are not helping one another or care for each other, it can turn into a toxic relationship pretty quickly.
Teach your child to say no
Saying no might seem easy to you and me, but it’s difficult for kids to do it. One of the things that the kids I coach struggle with most is peer pressure. It is so easy to give in to peer pressure, even if we know it’s wrong.
Teaching your kid to say no isn’t easy, but it starts with teaching them the power of “I”. Show your child that they have worth, boost the confidence, and let them understand that their well being is more important than appearing cool.
Model good relationships
No matter how old your child is, they will always look to you as an example of how things should be. If you have toxic or one-sided friendships, they will grow up to have the same. Start by making sure that your own relationships are where they should be.
One of the best ways you can model strong friendships is to display good conflict resolution skills. If you show your child how to forgive a friend or how to come to a compromise with one, then they will learn these skills and apply them to their own friendships.
Opposites attract isn’t true
While you can practice all of the above methods, the best way that your child can make good friends is by being a good friend themselves. Like attracts like. If your kid has the traits that you want their friends to have, then those friends will be drawn to them without much effort.
Having a good group of friends, no matter what your child’s age, will help them grow and become the best that they can be. Don’t forget the impact that those closest to your child can have, but don’t think that you can manipulate who those people are.
Teach your child good values, practice what is best for them, and they will surround themselves with those same traits in their friends.