We all need friends. Friends that are there for us when we are at our lowest, who will reach down to the bottom of our souls to bring us back from that dark place we have gone. Friends we can say anything to and be are silliest and most heartfelt with. Friends that love us for who we are and nothing more. These friends get us through, anything and everything. We should teach our children to be this kind of friend.
I teach my children two things. First, every person matters so give everyone a fair chance and second, to be kind. I encourage them to be understanding of others even when others are not being nice. I cannot protect them from the heartaches life offers but their heartaches should not come from their so called “friends.” A great friend makes life so much better.
We do a disservice to our young children when we label their classmates as “friends” at such an early age when children have no concept of what a “friend” actually is. We say things like, “did you make any friends in school today?” Or “did you sit with your friend at lunch today?” Eventually, children begin to believe that because they are with these same kids all day, then they must be friends.
Then the bullying starts; making fun of their hair, clothes, weight, etc. Before long, children begin to think the teasing and name calling are a part of friendship. They get used to being bullied and they confuse it with real friendship. We need to teach them not everyone is going to be a “friend” and that it is alright to walk away. They need better tools to be prepared on how to deal with these situations; that do not include bullying or being bullied.
The very definition of the word bully is, one that is habitually cruel to others who are weaker.
“Friendship bullies” are cruel. They were never taught to be real friends. They use double speak to convince you they are your friend. They complement and insult you at the same time. They laughingly say mean things to your face and then say it was a joke. They talk behind your back and try to convince others not to be your friends. They make you feel bad. They convince you they are your “best friend” by using words such as, “you better” or “you have to” and “I thought we were best friends..” For children, these are the hardest disappointments to handle because they grew up thinking these were their “best friends.”
Time and again, I have seen my daughter bullied by several of her “friends.” Bullied for not agreeing with them or doing what they wanted her to do. I have seen her outcast for speaking her own mind and standing up for herself. I have wiped away her tears for the names she has been called. I have seen text messages that have called her two-faced and accused her of “friendship betrayal” for having other friends and she is only in 5th grade! It is heartbreaking for me to see her struggle with this.
She has not met her “best friend” who God himself sent her from heaven. All she knows are these girls she has grown up with, who have treated her this way because someone treated them the same way and made their bad behavior acceptable.
There is a better way to teach our children, especially our girls, what a real friendship is. How children learn to treat each other reflects what they see at home. Little girls see how their mother’s treat other women in their lives, both good and bad. They imitate that behavior towards their own friends because they think it is normal. This is when the “bullying friendships” begin and they are usually based in jealousy, pettiness and fear. It becomes a vicious circle of hurt and confusion. We need to teach our children, love and compassion, not competition and jealousy.
If we just stop and think about our actions towards other women, we can teach our little girls how to be true friends and stop the bullying.