behavior, bullying, friendship, parenting, school age

Friendship Struggles: Tips to Help Your Kids!

At Kids Empowered, one of the most common issues we hear about are hot/cold friendships.  Friendship is an essential part of a child’s social development.   For some children it’s an easy accomplishment and for others it can be a world of hurt and rejection.  As a parent you can help facilitate the process of making friends and helping your child be a true friend and friendly classmate.  Each of us is responsible for our behavior & choosing people we want to have friendships with.   People want friends: to belong, to feel valued, to feel worthwhile, for help and support, for FUN! & to feel connected

Factors that influence friendships include: proximity, similarities, differences, mutual respect & affirmation. There are different levels of friendships, like social friends, best friends, family friends, long-distance friends, etc…   Having good social skills helps develop friendships. Greeting others, using direct eye contact, smiling & making positive statements about yourself and your friend are ways to be a true friend.

Friends are not:

  • Conditional—I will be your friend if……
  • Mean
  • Bossy
  • Threatening
  • Trying to make us do stuff we don’t want to do
  • Telling us to change our style, friends, or things we do
  • Hurtful
  • Name callers
  • Back-stabbers
  • Gossipers
  • Bullies
  • Director of all activities

And… if we are doing these things, we are not being a friend!

True Friends:

   Let each other be themselves

   Let each other use their own voice

   Respect each other’s opinions, interests, and decisions

   Build their friendship up

   Give each other compliments that are sincere and true

   Stick up for each other when others are talking about them

   Include their friends when others leave them out

   Have Fun

   Tell each other when they are upset in an assertive way (kind, but strong)

   Are careful in the way they say things to each other

True Friends DON’T:

   Repeat mean things others have said about them

   Boss each other around

   Talk about each other behind their backs, share secrets, or gossip

   Call names or put-down each other

   Hold onto anger…keep a grudge

   Lie to each other

   Threaten, intimidate, or criticize

 What to do when a friend or classmate is unfriendly

When we are standing up for ourselves and setting our boundaries we need to respond in a way that is fitting for that situation. At Kids Empowered, we divide social situations into three groups to help give us some guidelines on the best way to handle a situation. There is NEVER a black and white cookie-cutter response to any situation because they all have a unique combination of variables that you may want to consider. Variables include your child’s self-esteem, personality and circumstances, the other child’s personality and circumstances, whether it is the first time or this is a repeated offense, whether there are other friends or classmates that can stand up for your child, etc. The only thing that is black and white is that it is never ok to mistreat someone and that our children need to stand up for themselves. If they can’t stand up for themselves yet, then the adults need to help with the situation and work with the child to gain the confidence and tools to be able to stand up for themselves in the future.

The three groups of social situations are:  Bullies, Unfriendly Classmates, and Unfriendly Friends

When we stand up for ourselves we need to have the following:

  1. Confident body language (stand tall, square shoulders, chin up, direct eye contact)
  2. Assertive voice (firm but not angry, sassy, annoyed OR Passive) (With a friend a gentle firm voice)
  3. Firm Words, not mean words

With our friends we can use I-messages, which let our friends know how we feel. You can share that you feel sad, hurt, left out, etc. Never tell a bully or unfriendly classmate your feelings because they want you to feel that way and it lets them know they are being successful in their meanness. If you find your friend is mean back to you when you share your feelings you may not want to share them in the future until your friend shows you that she can respond in a way that reflects being a true friend. With a friend, our voice can be firm but gentle and soft. With an unfriendly classmate our voice needs to be very firm. With a friend we can talk things out but with an unfriendly classmate we are only sending one message in whatever firm (not mean) words you choose to say. The message is that you don’t have the right to mistreat me. You do not argue with the unfriendly classmate or bully about whether the point they are making is right or wrong or WHY they would say or do that. Keep it simple because the goal is to get this to stop, so we shut down the situation and we do not engage the bully (by responding in an annoyed, angry, sassy way) or give the bully power by responding in a passive way.

Words to use with friends.

If your friend says:


Empowered Kid’s response:

“You can’t be friends with………

“I like being your friend, but friends don’t tell each other who to be friends with.”
If your friend says, “I am not your friend.” “I like being your friend, but friends don’t say that to each other.”
“I am a better soccer player then you.” “I like being your friend, but friends put each other down.”
“You friends say you have to……… “I like being your friend, but friends don’t tell each other what to do.”
“Your shoes are pretty ugly.” “I like being your friend, but use their words to build each other up.”

If you’re looking for more information about how to support your children, Kids Empowered has provided empowerment programs since 1998 for over 500,000 children, teachers, counselors and parents.  Kids Empowered programming includes professional development, summer day camps, retreats, assemblies, parenting workshops, parent/child workshops, webinars, scout programs, and classroom presentations. Topics covered include bully-proofing kids, building confidence, teaching social skills and dealing with unfriendly friends.

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