Throughout childhood, kids are taught to be kind and to treat others as they would like to be treated. But, what if your daughter prefers not to be friends with someone? Maybe she doesn’t enjoy spending time with this person or she feels it’s not a good fit. How do parents encourage their kids to be kind while also helping them respond to their own needs?
FRIENDSHIP QUESTION: What if my daughter doesn’t want to be friends with someone who wants to be friends with her?
This question comes up often. And it’s a tough one for kids and adults to navigate. Essentially it requires balancing kindness with boundaries. To start, it helps to discuss the importance of “kindness in shared spaces.”
Kindness in Shared Spaces
Shared spaces include public and online places where people gather, such as schools, teams, social media and friend groups. Some shared places are filled with kindness. Others are not, making it easy for kids to follow suit.
Through guidance and role modeling, parents, teachers, coaches, and communities help kids learn how to navigate shared spaces with kindness. To support their learning, it is helpful to identify behaviors to avoid in shared spaces.
Behaviors that Diminish Kindness in Shared Spaces:
- A few kids whispering to each other in front of their teammates
- Spreading negative gossip or rumors
- Not allowing a person to sit at a lunch table
- Namecalling, labels, or rude comments that degrade others
- Body language (Like eye rolls or glares) that belittles someone
Yes, all of these behaviors are pretty common, especially in the preteen and teen years. As kids and teens grow and develop social-emotional skills, mistakes and unkind behavior happen. We are all human and learning as we go. Consistently identifying and modeling kindness in shared spaces can cultivate more kind behaviors.
Kindness in Shared Spaces While Maintaining Boundaries
If your daughter or son does not want to be friends with someone, that is okay. This is an opportunity to practice kindness while learning how to maintain boundaries. What does this look like in practice? Being kind while:
- politely declining an invitation to hang out outside of school
- avoiding name-calling and turning others against the person
- responding to conflict in a way that does not add more meanness to the situation
Friends, Kindness and Boundaries
Kindness while maintaining boundaries is an essential skill that comes in handy throughout life. Parents and schools play a key role in modeling and cultivating a culture of kindness. It takes steady effort and attention, but it’s worth it. The world needs more kindness.
About the Author: Jessica Speer is the author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. She has a master’s degree in social sciences and focuses her research and writing on social-emotional topics for kids and families. To learn more, visit, www.JessicaSpeer.com