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How do You Teach Your Child to be a Good Friend?

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Your child comes home in tears, complaining that they had no friends. Noone wants to sit with them at lunch, and your heart simply sinks. Worse, when you dig a little deeper, you learn that your child is the one who is inadvertently pushing others away. Navigating peer relationships can be difficult as adults, and for children it is even more of a challenge. For elementary school children, it is likely the first time that they are having to determine how be a good friend. In fact, learning how to be a good friend early on will positively impact their lives for years to come-not just in elementary school. There are several things that parents can do to help their child be the friend they'd want to have:

  1. Base it in faith: As believers, we need to start and end our parenting journey in the Word. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" That is a bit intense and abstract for a six-year old; however, you can always reference the Biblical truth you're trying to teach while using more age-appropriate examples. For example: "Your friend would like some of your snack. What do you think Jesus would do if someone wanted some of His snack?"
  2. Model it: Our words carry weight, but actions can quickly outpace even the most well-spoken parent. Our children have front-row seats to many of our relationships, particularly our marriage. It is vital that your children see you treating your spouse and friends with the same kind of selfless love and kindness you want to see them sharing with their classmates.
  3. Encourage Self-Esteem: Bullies are frequently the kids that are the most self-conscious. Helping your child develop a sense of self-esteem early is vital to their peer interactions. The easiest way to help your child develop self-esteem is to encourage them to work through their challenges on their own.
  4. Find kindness: It can be extremely difficult for kids to be selfless at a young age. Developmentally, they are hardwired to look out for themselves first. One way to help promote empathy and selfless behavior is to work with them to find one way they can be kind per day. Some examples you could suggest would be to let someone have their spot in line, give a friend a hug, or ask someone to play a game with you at recess. All focus on benefiting someone else without any major sacrifices from the child.
  5. Practice: Like any other skill, social graces can be helped through practicing healthy social skills. You can practice conversations and situations with your child so they will feel more prepared when they face it on the playground.

Nothing is harder for a parent than watching their child struggle making friends. Helping your child learn these skills will help them to find the friends and be the friend you pray they have.

Proverbs 13:20: "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." 

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