How to Teach Your Child to be a Good Friend

Teach your child the skills necessary to create healthy friendships.
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From a young age, your child will naturally gravitate toward others, developing strong friendships. However, learning how to be a good friend isn’t necessary an intuitive skill.

Children who struggle to be a good friend exhibit a fair amount of behavioral issues. Tattling, physical aggression, and name-calling often arise when kids don’t have the skills to play well with others.

It’s important to help your child foster healthy relationships.

Teach your child how to be a good friend, and you’ll likely encounter fewer disciplinary issues.

Instill Self-Esteem

The first step in teaching your child to be a good friend is to teach her to be good to herself. When a child has a strong sense of self, she won’t feel it to be necessary to join in on bullying or other mean behaviors to make herself feel better or to fit in.

Additionally, a child with a healthy sense of self will make healthier friendships and avoid toxic relationships down the road.

Teach Social Skills

Appropriate social behavior isn’t innate. Role-play with your child to teach her how to have polite conversations with adults and with other children.

Social skills that behoove friendships include learning how to say “no,” and how to accept “no” as an answer from another person. Your child also needs to know how to apologize (and mean it!), argue with a friend respectfully, listen to others, express empathy and be a good sport in games.

Enjoy Books About Friendship

From Frog and Toad to Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, children’s literature is rife with strong friendships. Use books as an opportunity to talk about what make those friendships work, and what qualities the character displayed to help it.

Make sure you read books about friends who are very different from each other to show your child how you can be respectful of differences and still remain friends.

Make New Friends

It gets harder to make friends as you grow older. Social anxiety, combined with a lack of opportunity, can create barriers to saying hello to new people.

Teach your child how to take the initiative to make friends -- it will serve him well in the long run. Instead of staying in the house, go out to the park or sign up for a class.

Introduce yourself to someone who has a child around the same age as you. Show your child that it doesn’t have to be intimidating to meet a new person (while still instilling the sense of safety around strangers). You never know where your next lifelong friend might come from!

Set a Good Example

Your child watches your behavior, even when you don’t think she’s paying attention. Your child will learn how to treat her friends from the way you treat your peers.

If you lie to your friends, talk badly about them behind their back or ditch them for something you deem more important, your child will think that’s an appropriate way to treat someone. Instead, be kind, be respectful and stay committed to your social obligations.

Learning how to be a good friend isn’t an overnight process. As a parent, you’ll probably run into situations where your child doesn’t act like the best friend he could be.

There will be drama, fights and gossip. Turn those squabbles into teachable moments, and ask him how a good friend would have acted in the situation. Eventually, he’ll get the hang of it and, hopefully, turn into a caring, kind and trustworthy friend.

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