True FriendsWritten by Linda Hill
Helping our children navigate the world of "friendship" is always a tricky thing. There's more than one "friend" that my children have introduced me to that have sent up every red flag you can imagine. There's that kid who's always whispering in your child's ear, but won't look you in the eye. There's another that is ALWAYS the accomplice to major mishaps that your child never seems to dream up on his own or with other friends. With girls, in particular, there are those "friends" who are their best buddies one day, and causing major emotional breakdowns the next day, but to whom your daughter seems deperately in want of their attention and acceptance. My guess is that, as you read this, you can name a few of those kids who've graced your home and your children's lives somewhere along the line. Maybe you can remember a few of your own friends from childhood that match those descriptions.
We can all agree that friendship is one of the most important things in our lives. Creating bonds with people is what makes us human and what brings great meaning to our very existence. But how do we teach our kids to choose GOOD friends? I've tried over the years to have very open conversations with my kids when I see "red flags." It is difficult to raise their consciousness without coming across as "too judgmental," because let's face it, when we become "friends" with someone, we oft times become blind to their faiths. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because we all want to be loved "warts and all" but it is also imperative to teach our children to be a good judge of character as they are choosing friends.
I've learned that when I am teaching my children, the meaning of words is critical to the conversation. For example, I've tried to help y children understand the difference between personality and character. Once I was trying to explain to my son that I thought a particular friend wasn't the best pick for him. He just kept saying, "But she's really nice!" Hmmmmmmm...... Nice? It's hard to argue with "nice," right? I told him that "nice" didn't really mean that much to me. After all, everyone said Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer, was quite "nice." In fact, I believe anyone can be "nice" when it suits them. My question to him was, "But is she KIND?" I then had to give a few examples of things I'd witnessed that were anything but kind. You see, "nice" is a personality trait. "Kind" is a character trait. Character traits make up WHO we truly are at our core. Kindness far exceeds the act of "being nice." "Nice" also doesn't in any way insinuate that they're a good influence, positive, smart, inclusive, honest, loyal, moral or unselfish. Nice is just... nice. In fact, "nice" sometimes is manipulative, underhanded, and cruel when it is used as a tool to get what you want. After all, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? I've found that explaining these things to my children have helped them navigate the waters of friendship more easily. When I ask them what it is that makes a good friend, they've learned to identify deeper qualities. I've also told them that, above all, I hope that they are kind to others and that they're being more than just "nice."
I heard Coach Larry Gelwix of the Highland Rugby team (featured in the movie. Forever Strong) speak to a group fo young people a few years ago. He said something to the effect of "the true character of a person can be seen in how they treat people who have absolutely nothing to give them in return." That really stuck with me and I've used that thought more than a few times with my own children in teaching them how to find friends with good character, and more importantly, how to BE a good friend.
Think of your "best friend." How are you alike? How are you different? What have you learned about friendship from this person? (For more ideas, check out our My Favorites story starter.)
Linda Hill is a native of…well, nowhere really. She grew up as an Air Force brat and currently claims Littleton, CO as her home of 8 years (the longest she’s lived any one place in her life so far!) She is the mother of 5 children, two sons and a daughter who have already “flown the coop” and 2 daughters in high School. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Family Science and put her degree to use as she raised her large family and operated several home-based businesses while serving in many volunteer positions in her church, community and the schools. She has been married to Kent Hill for 25 years and they look forward to at least another 125! Currently she is an instructor to teens for a daily early morning religion class. She is passionate about her family, storytelling, politics and when she gets the time – locking herself in her sewing room with a chick flick and getting her “creative” on!
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