Here’s How To Navigate This Awkward Parenting Problem

From the time our children enter school and begin to form their own friendships, they are often drawn to kids who share their interests, just as adults are.

As they grow up, we try to teach our children to be kind and compassionate to others and include everyone in their play.  But just like adults, some kids just don’t hit it off – or worse, don’t get along at all.  While we may want our children to get along with everyone, it is just not realistic.

It can be especially difficult when our children don’t get along with the children of our friends.  Or we can be put in an awkward situation when another parent comes to us and tells us our child is not including their child in activities.

So when should a parent step in, and how do we allow our kids to form and build their own relationships, trusting they are treating others the way they would like to be treated? We cannot force our kids to like certain people when they just don’t, but we can teach them to be diplomatic and considerate.

Focus on the Family reported:

Listen with respect

When we notice attitudes in our kids that need revision, it’s natural to just tell them what to do. But sometimes, hasty advice shuts down the conversation. Logic doesn’t change feelings, but listening can.

When our kids express dislike for someone, we can ask open-ended questions: What does he say or do that bothers you? How does that make you feel? How do you think God wants you to respond?

By listening carefully to the answers before we offer advice, we can help our children think through the deeper issues at play. Then, we can identify with their feelings.

Model respect

Kids may hear our advice, but they will act the way they see us act towards others. Our children watch how we interact with challenging people in our lives. The way we respond is likely how they will respond also.

View others with respect

We all see others through our own lenses, and it’s easy to assume that we’re right and the other person is wrong. In reality, they’re just different — and it’s part of God’s design. Our kids learn to respect others when they learn to value their differences. It’s not a matter of who’s right or who’s wrong; it’s seeing them the way God does. Not everyone is going to be our best friend, but we need to see them as a person with value.

When your child is struggling to find something to like about someone, ask them to put themselves in their shoes.  Brainstorm ways they can be kind and friendly, without having to pursue a full-blown friendship.

This is something that adults have learned to do, but kids need time to learn.  We can let them know that they don’t have to be friends with everyone and they won’t always get along with everyone they meet.  There is a difference between being “friends” and being “friendly” that children will learn as they grow and explore different relationships.

We can also talk to them about our relationships with others.  We may be kind and respectful towards our neighbors and coworkers, but we are not close friends with them.  This distinction, and the way we treat others in front of our kids, will teach them diplomacy in social situations.

When Respect Rules

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus proclaimed: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” For our kids, remembering the Golden Rule is the key to navigating relationships in a way that demonstrates respect. As we help them discover how they like to be treated by others, this becomes the standard for how they treat others.

Often with our own friends, we are confronted with this situation head-on.  What do we do when our children don’t get along with the kids of our close friends?

Experts agree you should never force your child to “be friends” with a child they just don’t get along with.  It can send a poor message that relationships can be based on artificial terms.  Instead, teaching them simple kindness and respect can at least make for civil get-togethers.

Today’s Parent reports on tips to handle the situation when your friend’s kids and yours don’t get along:

Don’t force it.  First, don’t insist that the kids play together. During the early school-age years, children are beginning to become more discriminating about their friends, tending to choose buddies who have similar temperaments and interests, and they may show a preference for peers of the same gender. It’s important to respect and acknowledge your children’s choices regarding playmates.

Be honest.  Then, talk honestly with your friends about the situation. Not all parents may be able to handle that conversation with such grace. Choose your words carefully and be as tactful as possible. You might talk about different personalities or play styles, or point to different sexes as being the reason.  If your friends are good friends, they’ll understand and will appreciate your honesty. Then you can move on to figuring out what might work.

And try the following ideas from Today’s Parent when getting together with friends to make it easier for the kids to socialize with each other:

  • Don’t force it. Rather than shooing the children out of the room, make it clear that they’re welcome to come and go as they wish among the adults.
  • Try an activity that adults and children can play together — a round of Pictionary or a badminton match in the backyard.
  • Bring along an activity to share with the other children. For example, you might bring ingredients for the children to make a nice dessert together.

No matter who your child decides to befriend, respect their decision and recognize the important life lessons they are learning as they explore relationships with their peers.

Have you experienced a situation where your child did not get along with another?  Did the other child’s parents ask you to get involved, or was it a friend of yours?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.

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