As a mom of both young kids and older ones, I’ve learned how important it is for my children to find good friends. It’s been said that we are most like the five people we spend the most time with. This is especially true for our kids. Kids pick up characteristics they see. They repeat what they hear.
Of course, this means that if we want our kids to seek out these qualities in friends, they also need to have them. So what character qualities are important to seek out … and important to help grow in our kids? Here are five traits of a good friend:
It’s important for our kids to know that they can trust what their friends say is true. Nothing hurts as much as knowing you’ve been lied to. Teach your children to look for friends who always tell the truth. Also, teach your kids to be truth-tellers. One way to do this is to remind them that being truthful or untruthful reflects their character. “If you tell a lie about the small things how can I—or a friend—believe you in the big things?” Also, be sure to praise your kids when you catch them telling the truth. Remember that what is praised is repeated.
Each of us likes to be treated with kindness. Kindness means treating people with respect and putting another person’s needs before your own. Kind friends make everything easier—from play to simple conversations. Teach your kids to be kind to others throughout the day, from their siblings to older men or women they meet at the grocery store. Point out to your children how much others appreciate when they are kind. Make sure to note how your child brings smiles to other’s faces.
3. Understanding differences
There are no two people alike, and friends need to know that different doesn’t mean bad. Friendship is not about picking friends who are the same as you but learning to understand and appreciate the differences of others. Find ways to help your child share their family and cultural background and traditions with their friends, and invite their friends to do the same. The more your child learns to appreciate other people the better prepared they will be to build all types of friendships throughout their lives.
No one likes to be around grumpy people, yet it’s hard to have a good attitude all the time. Teach your children that there will be times when their friends may not have a good attitude. There are times all of us struggle with anger, frustration, or disappointment, but in general, we should look for friends who for the most part have an attitude that is filled with joy. We also need to model a joyful attitude for our kids. They model what they see. Finally, tell your child how much you appreciate joyful attitudes. Reward your children with high-fives or hugs when you see them brightening up another person’s day with joy.
It’s important to share what we have with each other. Teach your children to thank their friends when their friends share with them. Also, teach your children to look for opportunities to share with others. Children should not be expected to share every special toy or book they have. Instead, work with them to pick out toys or books that they’ll be eager to share. One great book that is great to read with friends is: God Bless My Friends by Hannah Hall and Steve Whitlow. This adorable book teaches kids to appreciate their friends, showing how even our favorite friends are different than them. It’s a great book for kids to share together, taking note of what they appreciate most about the special friends in their lives.