He is sweet, caring and funny! He is 10 going on 30 and has often been described as ‘an old soul’. As our son flew through the toddler and early childhood years we began to realize just how blessed we are that we have a child who we can chat with. Baby talk was something I hated-we used real words, real explanations and we chat and I only hope it lasts.
At 10 (11 in May), Anthony is in the 5th grade. (Right now) he tells me anything and I hope he always will. What seems to be the common topic in the world of grade 5? Friends!
At this age I began to realize something (even when his older (half) brothers were his age) that boys don’t really have one best friend. They float and have clusters such as the neighborhood friends, the school friends, the sports team friends and nowadays the friends he online games with. So, they really do begin to meet kids of all personalities and have to make friendships work in groups.
I often hear of one kid and the friendship they have and the fun at recess they all had and the next day that same friend is ‘rude and being mean to everyone’. Then day 3 they are cool again. My son takes it real hard when anyone seems rude to him so we have this conversation often.
“Son. Not everyone is meant to be your friend”
Like you might feel right now, I too ask myself if I am contradicting my talks about being kind to everyone and being accepting to all. I still have those talks. Before my son gets out of the car in the mornings on school grounds I always tell him “Have a good day and be kind”. But, I really feel that at a certain age you should not tell your child to be friends with everyone. Why? I have 2 very clear reasons for this friendship talk.
Reason number one is false love! Our little men will grow up to be husbands and fathers one day so it is our job to guide them well for their own sake and happiness down the road. What happens if they get the wrong message about love?
Last year, my son had an incident with a girl at school. He would come home devastated because he thought they were friends and suddenly she is bullying him. This girl and her friends taunt and tease him and then laugh in his face. This girl had to be moved across the class because of her interfering with my son’s work-whispering insults as he was silent reading, closing his books on him so he had to relocate the page he was on. Then one day she taunted him enough to instigate a friend to stick her foot out and trip him and he fell hard. I had tried to tell him to ignore, just pay attention to friends, talk to Teacher but it was escalating and now physical.
So, I had a friendly chat with the Counselor who was very receptive. Here was my main concern! My son told me that had slipped and told a friend that he liked her and his friend had said she likes him back, so my son said something that really terrified me, “Mom. It’s OK she does that. Now I know it’s just because she likes me!” No!! My words to the Counselor went something like this,
“….. the last thing I want is for my son to learn at grade 5 that name-calling, bullying, hurting someone physically is all excused when done in (perceived) love. I absolutely do not want him thinking that love is shoving, throwing dirt in your face and isolating that person. And what about the girl? I worry about her! Because somehow or somewhere does she have the message that you have to get loud, hit and humiliate to show affection? Can we do something to teach them a very important lesson here?”
The Assistant Principal took this over gratefully and it was a success. They had a good chat. They both admitted maybe emotions drove the behavior and both seemed to feel bad and apologized. She said she kept the girl to have their own private chat and now they are great this year. Just friends as normal, no apparent feelings anymore and it ended quickly.
“Son. Not everyone is meant to be your (girl) friend”
The second reason I don’t want any of our boys to think that ‘everyone’ has to be your friend is about embracing individuality. I feel like when you want to teach your child to gain, grow and hold onto self-confidence you have to make it an all-encompassing lesson. Many factors will interrupt your ability to hold onto your own confidence and friends are the biggest part of that.
When you get older, people change especially in their teens and young adulthood. Remember who you were at 19? Chances are you are not that same person anymore because who acts like that? Young adults do.
Yes! At 10 I chat when appropriate to my son about the days he will realize some kids he knows and even calls a friend now will one day make wrong turns in life. I want my son to be alert to bad decision makers versus those on straight paths. I want him to always be kind, but not necessarily hang with or buddy up with any kids who are acting reckless or seem to be constantly in trouble. Nothing will pull a happy, self-confident child down than to realize he is deep into a group of buddies that keep challenging his rights and wrongs.
“Son. Not everyone is meant to be your (lifelong) friend”
At 10 his greatest stress should be beating level 10 on a video game, but sadly I know that one day his stressors will become large. I don’t want our little men to accept bad behavior as a sign of affection. I do not want our little men to settle with just anyone. I do not want our little men to feel like they have to ‘go with the crowd’ that they fell into.
If we don’t make them aware of the reality of friends and lovers who will? The kids at school who tell your child “she likes you, that’s why she is shoving you. Are you going to like her back?”
So, for now at only 10 he has spats, we discuss maybe that kid had a bad day. Maybe you should ask your friend why he seems upset, then you’ll know. Maybe, he is a great recess buddy but perhaps (other friend) is your better Saturday afternoon playdate buddy. Be kind, be a friend but be aware, never settle and stay confident.
Having raised 2 before him, I realize that NOW is the age to teach this. NOW is the age to really take the topic of friendship, love and self-confidence and have the discussions while they still listen and before their friends influences strengthen. It is a lot harder to heal and deal with an adult child stuck in an unhealthy relationship or finding themselves always care taking for others emotions over their own later on than to have discussions with a 5th grader.
What are your thoughts?