Episode 22 –
Getting Involved in Your Kids’ Friendship Disagreements
“Sometimes [your kids] will not choose the best route, but after all isn’t that when we learn the best? Allowing them to navigate these waters on their own, will give them special confidence that is very hard to gain when things are being done for them.”
Have you gotten involved in one of your kids’ friendship disagreements before? Before you do again, listen to this!
Sharon breaks down the steps to handling any friendship disagreement that your kids may face.
Find the script Sharon mentioned here! This script works on any age. If you have questions, head over to the Raiseology Parenting Facebook group and ask away!
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Sharon: Today’s topic is one I’ve had a lot of experience with dealing with my own kids, friendship. Not sure if it’s because we have four girls which not only increases the amount of drama in our home, or so I’ve heard, but can also increase the amount of friendship drama we encounter. I think this topic of our children’s friendships is really interesting. It’s a topic I often get called about for my own friends. Many parents aren’t quite sure how to navigate issues between their children and their friends. This can be especially challenging when your children’s friends happened to be the children of your friends. Can you make sure arguments between your children and their friends don’t affect your own friendships? How involved should we be and getting into our children’s arguments after all? What are the benefits of our involvement or perhaps is there greater benefit if we don’t get involved at all?
Well, I think a lot of the answers to these questions depends on the age of your child. When your children are young. I think it’s super important to observe their behavior from afar and try to let them work out any small disagreements they may have on their own. I really try very hard not to get involved when my children are arguing with each other, with their cousins or with their friends. As they get older, children will try to bait you. They will come and tell on each other. They’ll come to you and cry and for me the challenge has always been to remember not to take the bait and to maintain a position of neutrality. In these situations, when parents do get involved, I find they’re really two types of parents. Those that always assume their children are in the wrong or if not, are willing to accept blame on their behalf, and those who think that their children can do no wrong.
Unfortunately for my kids, I found I always ended up trying to get them to give in and therefore found that given that neither position is fair to our children, it was best if we simply took no position. Certainly if it seems they need assistance navigating a situation, you can intervene, but in a way that really allows each of the participants to describe the situation in their own words and then come up with the solution themselves. You are simply there to guide them. Why is this so important? Well, for starters, I will remind you that kids get into disagreements all the time over really silly things. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be navigating all of them. Teaching them to deal with their own disagreements or arguments can benefit them both short and long term and help them understand the best ways to deal with every situation.
It will certainly that they will sometimes not choose the best route, but after all isn’t that when we learn the best, allowing them to navigate these waters on their own, we’ll give them special confidence that is very hard to gain when things are being done for them and this confidence to stick up for themselves and even sometimes fight for what they believe to be true even, if they are sometimes wrong, is important for them to learn. Remember that raising children is a lifelong process and they will not do everything the way you’d like them to all at once. Initially they may behave stubbornly and stand their ground even when perhaps they shouldn’t be, but that distinction will come with time and coaching. I’m referring here mostly to those spats over toys and what show to watch on TV. Those little kid arguments that take up most of our time but are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve often seen parents get involved for the sake of either trying to get their child to share better or occasionally to avoid a situation where their child is being taken advantage of. I maintain my position that while these situations provide amazing opportunities for us to teach our kids how we expect them to behave, the time to do so is rarely during the actual instance of a disagreement. Your best method of action will be to either discuss the situation calmly, later with your kids when they aren’t in the heat of an argument and trying to get their way or defend themselves or to role play similar situations with them later if they’re too young for the discussion. As children get older, their disagreements sometimes increasing complexity. Even then I urge you not to take too strong a position because the truth is, as adults, we tend to hold on to feelings that may surround these arguments way longer than our kids do.
Often the kids they’re arguing with today are their best friends tomorrow, and this is also the reason I try really hard not to get myself involved with other parents over these things. I’m going to give you an example. A friend of mine called me once to ask me for my advice on the topic. Her son was in first grade at the time and having daily issues with the little boy in his class. This was a little boy that he had play dates with and really was friendly with outside of school as well as in school, but they were going through a thing. He was constantly coming home complaining about how this boy was treating him and my friend wasn’t sure what to do. Should she call the other boy’s mom and tell her that her son was being mean? After all, surely you would want to know if your son was been behaving nicely.
My advice to her was simple. Always give your son the space to air his frustrations, a listening ear and when you can and he seems receptive advice on how to handle a situation. In this situation, simply teaching her son to stand up for himself and say he didn’t like the way he was. Being treated was enough to teach him that if he feels that things are getting worse, to approach the teacher or an adult in the room. If things should escalate, she could even discuss with the teacher herself to get more information and alert her what’s happening. Eventually she did use this option, but in my opinion it’s best not to get into it with the other boy’s mom. After all these boys will be in school together for many years to come and it’s possible that as quickly as they started arguing, they’ll become the best of friends.
Alerting the teacher to what was happening in this situation put an end to it and everyone was able to move on. The option to discuss with the other parent is always available to you, but in my opinion should be used more of as a last resort. So for me, I will always first try to see if my children will be able to figure it out on their own. Then try to coach them through solving their issues independently and if they really aren’t able to do so, I may involve school personnel or get involved myself. If really all else fails and the issue is important enough. Another question I get asked is what to do if your child is becoming friendly with a child whose behavior you don’t like? This is a tough one. Definitely with four daughters, we’ve encountered this on different levels over the years.
I usually try to survey the situation almost always at the age of three to four my kids have had friends or classroom influences I didn’t love. Suddenly I would hear bathroom words at home or see behaviors I wasn’t too proud of. I try to remember that I can’t necessarily shape the behaviors of other children, but I can certainly have influence over the behaviors of my own. I would remind my kids what I expect of them and use consequences or rewards as needed. If you haven’t already, you can download my script on how to talk to a toddler so they listen on my home page at Raiseology.com. This script can really be used in many situations for children of almost any age. I remember one of my daughters came home around the age of four and was suddenly spitting a behavior. We certainly don’t tolerate, but one she learned from a classmate, we addressed it with her and the behavior stopped at home and we discussed it briefly with her preschool teacher as well to make sure she wasn’t joining in at school either.
We all know you can’t always control who your children are in school with, but you do have some control over who they spend time with outside of school. If there are specific children whose influences you don’t love on your own children, you can limit at play dates and extracurricular encounters if you feel you need to. I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, as these kids will mature over time and you may find that in a couple of years they’re great for your kids to be around, but for the time being, do what makes you feel comfortable and simply don’t schedule time outside of school if you don’t really think it’s right for your child. As they get older, your children will have more of an opinion on who they want to have over or where they’d like to spend their free time. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your own thoughts and you certainly remain within your right to act in the way that you feel is best for your child.
I really feel that it’s our role as parents to sometimes do what’s uncomfortable if it’s really what we think serves them best. We have more experience that our children do and while we should involve them, whenever is appropriate, we also should be able to exert our authority when we feel it’s necessary. Our eldest daughter was about nine or 10 when she was coming home daily, complaining about one particular friend in school. This friend honestly wasn’t treating her very nicely, constantly excluding her at recess and occasionally trying to get other friends to rally against her. My husband and I tried to discuss with our daughter the importance of sticking up for herself while reminding her of her great qualities that make anyone lucky to be her friend. This other girl, however, was really inconsistent and sometimes try to make our daughter feels that they were friends, which actually made it challenging for us.
Of course, our daughter wanted to feel that she was part of the group and when her friends included her it made her feel special and loved, but something about this relationship really felt toxic to us. So once we realized that our daughter couldn’t really handle it on her own, we spent several weeks coaching her through the experience. We also made the decision that this child was not going to be allowed in our home, at least during that time. Today, a few years later, my daughter is still friends with many of those girls. Though this one girl in particular happens to not be a close friend of hers. Just last week our daughter was having friends over and this girl wanted to be included, but our daughter wasn’t really too excited about having her come. In coaching our daughter, I reminded her of how she felt when she was the one being excluded and urged her to include this friend.
In the recent past, she hasn’t had any issues with her and I felt that in excluding her in this situation, my daughter would be doing to her exactly what she didn’t like when she was on the receiving end. Our daughter learned a lot from this experience. She learned to stick up for herself. She learned to forgive and let go and not to hold grudges, and most of all, she learned the power of empathy. We sometimes dwell as parents on what these friendship arguments and experiences mean for our kids in the moment, but I challenge you to consider how they shape our kids’ futures. We have the ability to turn these potentially negative experiences into greatly positive learning opportunities. So next time you’re faced with an argument between your kids and their friends, first, do nothing, then coach, and if you really feel there isn’t a better alternative, intervene. Thanks for listening. Hope you enjoyed it.
Thanks for listening to the podcast. Head over to www.Raiseology.com where you’ll find plenty of. You’ve got this resources for parents and any links or tools mentioned in today’s show. Be sure to hit subscribe on your podcast so that you can listen to the next episode. The minute it’s out. Until next time, have an empowered week.
Meet Your Mentor
Sharon is a general pediatrician, loving wife and mother to 4 daughters.
After a decade of practicing general pediatrics and working with families, she realized there often wasn’t enough time while tending to children’s medical needs to help parents in the way that would be most helpful in shaping their children’s futures.
The Raiseology Program was developed to teach parents how to raise their children with the love and authority necessary to promote resilience and responsibility.
Sharon’s experience with hundreds of families as well as her own help her meet you where you are on your parenting journey to help you make it what you want it to be.
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