Is picking a childhood best friend a form of bullying?
I have 4-year-old identical twin daughters. If I ask them independently who their best friend is, they quickly name each other. We do know some other children, but not enough for them to really connect with anyone other than each other. Being that they aren’t school-aged yet and that they are identical twins, I am willing to bet it’s pretty safe to say they are actually best friends.
But then there is my older daughter. She is 6 years old and rounding out the end of first grade. She never really picked a best friend during preschool or kindergarten. But this year, she announced another little girl as her best friend. I played along for awhile. I didn’t want her feelings to get hurt if maybe this other little girl didn’t mutually feel the same, but as time went on, it was clear these two were definitely much closer than just classmates. I got to know the little girl’s mom, and the kids have had plenty of play dates together now and are mostly inseparable in class. So yes, my daughter has her first best friend. They even exchanged friendship necklaces and wear them proudly every day.
Most of this school year, though, my daughter has been dealing with problems caused by another little girl at school. At first I tried to teach her ways they could try to get along or to use her words to let this little girl know she was hurting my daughter’s feelings, but it became obvious that the two just needed to be kept apart. This girl was very popular and my daughter tells me it’s because she is the smartest kid in the class. This little girl tends to boss the other kids around and manipulates them in a way I don’t really like, nor does my kid. In talking with different people at the school to resolve the problems, it became clear that they just want everyone to get along. One conversation even implied that kids this age singling out kids they want to play with exclusively (i.e. best friends) is bad for the dynamic of the class and hurts other kids’ feelings if they aren’t in that close-knit relationship.
My daughter has been coached on how to “be a friend to everyone.” I am all for teaching children against bullying and being kind, but I am not sure about this idea that every child has to be a friend. I think children, even as young as my 4-year-olds, are able to differentiate their preferences, and if one child is the most like them and helps them feel comfortable, and they enjoy playing with that child a lot, is that wrong?
Is the idea of having a childhood best friend simply outdated, or even worse, a form of bullying?
For now, I think I’ll let my girls have their childhood best friend because I still see the innocence in it. From what I have seen already, they deserve to have someone in their corner because there are a lot of mean kids in this world. I know from personal experience that having a best friend can change a lot through a child’s school years and even into adulthood, but one thing remains: Having at least one person you can really count on matters, even if it’s your own family.
What do you think? Will you encourage your kids not to have a childhood best friend? Do you teach your child to be friends with everyone, even those who aren’t kind to them?
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