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Making Friends is a Parenting Must Read

March 20, 2010

Making Friends: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Child’s Friendships
written by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer
De Capo Press 2009
Non-Fiction (Parenting)

One winter day last year, my daughter came home from school crying. “Cici’s [not her real name] the boss and she told me I can’t play.” One month later, she was still “locked-out” and I felt helpless. How could I make her realize she didn’t have to do what Cici said? How could I help myself not react in anger at my daughter being left out. (Besides therapy!?)

It was first grade.

It starts young.

This year in second grade, similar events occur weekly. Currently, it’s an exclusive club — a club started by a “Queen Bee” kind of girl who only lets certain girls in her club. She tells my daughter that she’s “not taking any more applications.” Seriously? My daughter hopes Ms. Queenie will let her be in the club. You and I know that is not going to happen.

So, you can imagine why I needed this book – Making Friends. I’m not going to tell you that it solved all our problems, but this book helped me understand what I can do and what I shouldn’t do. Some things help. Some things make it worse.

My big takeaways were these:

  • Don’t get overly involved. (For instance, don’t call the other child’s mother – which I did — because it only makes things worse.) Hartley-Brewer writes “Unless your child is being seriously threatened, your job is to listen and empathize and offer things to say and do, but not to fix the problem.
  • Don’t criticize her friends.When you criticize a friend, your child hears you criticizing him for his choice of friends which is liable to make him defensive. Acknowledge that the friend can be nice and hurtful.” (I also did this. And yes, she got defensive.)
  • Friends are important for kids to develop emotionally and socially – “which enables them to grow into well-rounded, sociable, balanced, adaptable, and caring adults. More than that, though, friends help to make you who you are.”
  • Show kids how to make and be friends. Hartley-Brewer breaks it down into steps:  “making the fist move, clinching a budding friendship, keeping a friendship going, coping with quarrels and arguments.”
  • Discuss the qualities of a good friend at home. Model and practice friendly behaviors like sharing, taking turns, smiling and so forth.

Making Friends goes into detail about the stages of friendship, the need for friends, recognizing problems, cyber friends and how boys and girls differ in their friendship styles. If you have kids, I highly recommend reading this book. You never know when you’re going to need to support your child through a rough friendship phase.

As for me, I’m going to start more conversations at home about friends, ask more questions and listen more. Perhaps one day soon, I’ll hear my daughter declaring, “You know, mom, I think I want to play with someone who is nice to me all the time.”

Ultimately, our kids have to work it out for themselves. We can help teach them resiliency and problem solving and that’s about it. I try to remember the point of the parenting book, The Blessings of a Skinned Knee — these are the lessons that turn into blessings later. (If I forget, you will remind me, won’t you?)

WIN a copy of Making Friends! E-mail your name to deborah.mock@parenthood.com with “Making Friends” in the subject line. We will randomly select one lucky winner to receive a copy of the book. Deadline for entry is midnight MST on April 1, 2010.

WIN a set of tickets to the Girls World Tour in Denver, March 16, 2010.  Click here for more info.

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