7 Ways To Teach Your Child How To Be A Good Friend

two girls holding hands

Most parents will tell you that the most important part of raising a kid is that their child finds happiness. So what makes children happy? One of the top things that make both adults and children happy is having meaningful relationships. The happiest people spend time with people they love including family, partners or friends. Spending quality time with loved ones fulfills two basic human needs: 1.

the need for social connections with others and 2. the need for personal growth which makes us feel fully alive.

Children model their parents and learn from their parent's verbal and non-verbal communication. It is your job as a parent to teach your child how to react to situations and how to treat others. One way for parents to help children make friends and foster meaningful relationships is to parent according to the lessons in Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People.

Do not criticize, condemn or complain

Is complaining an innocent way of stating one's opinion or is a bad habit we should not teach our children? Studies found that people who complained less were happier. Complaining and criticizing is modeled behavior that becomes ingrained in kids - simply from hearing it in car rides, during dinner conversations or standing in line at a store. Complaining and criticizing without a purpose or end goal is not healthy.

It increases the stress hormones which can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is important for parents to model how to problem solve. When your kid has a problem, sit down and talk with them about how they can solve it, step by step. Kids who learn how to problem solve are more resilient and will complain less.

Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves

Being a good listener is simple and makes people immediately feel comfortable around you. Parents can model good listening in a few ways: 1. spend 15 minutes (minimum) of alone time each night with your child(ren). Allow them to pick the topic or game and do not check your phone or do homework 2. at dinner, ask each family member to tell the best and worst parts of their day. Make sure each child gets to say everything they want to and try to manage interruptions. 3) model good listening with your spouse.

Make others feel important - and do it sincerely

Our need to feel important and validated begins at a very young age.  When a child does not feel important, validated or appreciated, he or she may either act out or turn in. Kids who act out do not become the type of kids to make friends easily. Kids who turn in have trouble trusting their judgment and have increased anxiety.  It is your job as the parent to make your kid feel important and proud of his accomplishments.

An individual who feels good about themselves will turn into an adult who can easily make other people sincerely feel important.

Know when to use suggestions; Not direct orders

No one wants to hangout with the bossy kid at school. Model for your child how to get people to do what they want by making it enjoyable for the other person. Get your kids to clean their rooms using incentives or making it a game. If you create a household where chores are fun and there is no yelling and complaining, your kids will want to help and be involved.

Be friendly, no matter how angry the other person may be

There is an important distinction between being assertive and aggressive. Making commands or having extreme expectations of others makes others perceive you as aggressive. Most of us meet aggression with aggression, but you can achieve much more if you remain calm and show appreciation for the other person. This is behavior that your child will watch and model. A gentle, diplomatic nudge that allows others to make the first move will get respect from others. This is a sign of being a good leader who is assertive, not aggressive.

Praise others achievements

Be your child's biggest cheerleader, even when their choice wouldn't necessarily be your choice. Parents can model praise for their kids by specifying what they are praising. “You wrote out your entire name for the first time!” “Each time we practice you get better at hitting the baseball.” Kids will model these statements and start saying them to friends and team members.

Be empathetic 

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Children learn empathy from their parents. There many opportunities for where you can teach your child the importance of being compassionate to ourselves and others. When your children are young, help them label their feelings. "You were sad when Jane took your toy." As they get older, engage in conversations where your child can express and explain their feelings. Part of being a good friend means being able to put yourself in another persons' shoes. Parents can help their children develop empathetic skills.

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