Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, sparks a heavy conversation by saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Although this sentiment cannot be proven mathematically, it carries truth. Friends can elevate us; friends can bring us down. Some people sleepwalk through life, enduring doom and gloom. Some people create ripples of positive impact, embodying promise and potential. All the while, we get to choose the company we keep.
For better or worse, attitudes and energy are contagious. As we influence our friends, they also influence us. As we consider who we spend time with, ask, “What kind of person do I want to be? Who are the people I spend the most time with? Do these people hold values that align with what I want for my future?”
Social Imperative = Children Must be an Attractive Playdate by Age Four
For every child, the first four years are crucial for social development. During these all-important formative years, children who develop adequate social skills have a fair shake at making and keeping friends. As they emerge from the toddler years, kids start accepting (and rejecting) each other; normally behaving four-year-old kids won’t play with kids who act like two-year-olds. If not socially domesticated by age four, children risk missing out on climbing the developmental ladder and are more likely to get left behind. While social skills are important, this does not suggest that all four-year-old children should be expected to have friends: situational and aspirational variables are different for every child.
Children follow different developmental paths and paces, all of which can be supported with healthy paternal guidance. By helping children understand social nuance—at least to the degree that they aren’t offensive—we do our part in setting them up for social success.
Focusing on Self vs. Focusing on Others
It’s important for fathers to recognize that younger children are naturally inclined to focus on themselves—one of the worst ways to make new friends. Luckily for egocentric toddlers, what starts as parallel play alongside other children evolves into cooperative and then collaborative play. Over time, kids show interest in each other and learn how to make friends. One huge caveat—kids should approach other kids from a place of genuine caring, NOT manipulation. True friendship demands authenticity.
Levels of Friendship
Keeping the right people in our lives is one of the most important things we’ll ever learn how to do. There are three types of friends:
- Acquaintances: “Hi-Bye” folks we cross paths with at school or work; without social context, the relationship doesn’t last.
- Regular friends we socialize with from time to time.
- Soul friends who become like brothers and sisters; people we can share anything and everything with; trust is implicit and reciprocal.
Dealing with Bad Influences (Young Children)
Behavioral problems in grade school are more commonly due to underdeveloped social skills than bad intentions. Some children don’t enjoy certain advantages, such as consistent attention and discipline.
Focus on the behavior and not on the child. Children make mistakes; correct the behavior while affirming a loving and caring energy. Avoid knee-jerk reactions such as banning a “bad egg.” Insist on being the host family for playdates. Dad can better monitor (and guide) attitudes and behaviors from the comfort of his own home. Rather than focusing on the “bad” influence of the other child, be the “positive” influence for our children and their friends. If we don’t like what we see, we can always cut back on playdates.
Encouraging Good Influences (Teenagers)
Teenagers with good attitudes and strong morals tend to elevate their environment. Those with bad attitudes and shallow values tend to cast a dark cloud. Teenagers experience more peer-to-peer influence than any other age group—one way or another—attitudes, words, and behaviors are infectious.
If someone speaks with integrity, carries a “can-do” attitude, and accepts responsibility for their actions, these healthy energies shape a positive future. The hopes and dreams of youth are easier to reach when teenagers spend time with supportive and optimistic friends. Fathers can and should gently point out that our friends’ characteristics bring out certain qualities.
Keeping the Right Friends
Show love, support, and be a listening ear. If we’re ever feeling down, good friends uplift us. Don’t be too clingy, needy, or force things; real friendships evolve naturally. Remember, no one is perfect, every friend will make mistakes, and that’s ok. Managed maturely, conflict can deepen the bonds of friendship. Have compassion, be considerate, and remember to balance our propensity for tolerance and forgiveness with our needs for authenticity and respect. The intersection of shared values and mutual appreciation can bear a special love and trust that lasts a lifetime.
Children who develop interpersonal skills insulate themselves from unknowingly violating social norms or ostracizing themselves from their peers. During our journey through life, true friends lighten our hearts, lift our spirits, and make our world a better place. If we are so fortunate for even one soul brother from another mother or one soul sister from another mister, we find ourselves blessed beyond belief. Teach children to make and keep the right friends by approaching each day with good energy and following the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
—1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV
Fun dinosaur characters teach young children all about friendship. With playful full-color illustrations, How to Be a Friend helps kids cope with everyday social situations and learn things like: who can be your friend, how to show someone you would like to be friends, how to handle bosses and bullies, the best ways to be a friend, and ways to settle an argument with a friend.
Social skills don’t come naturally―every child has to learn them. Luckily, this book makes mastering social skills super fun with 50 awesome activities.
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?
Growing Friendships is a toolkit for both boys and girls as they make sense of the social world around them, giving kids the answers they need to make and keep friends. With true-to-life examples, they will learn how to be open to friendship, choose kind friends, and most important, be a good friend.
The go-to guide for teenage girls, offering concrete advice about the most powerful ways to influence others, defuse arguments, admit mistakes, and make self-defining choices.
A close friendship is one of the most influential and important relationships a human life can contain. Anyone will tell you that! Most people don’t talk much about what it really takes to stay close for the long haul. Big Friendship will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged, and preserved. It is a call to value your friendships in all of their complexity. Actively choose them. And, sometimes, fight for them.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.