Social scientists, who are certain the world would be a better place if everyone just does what they say – are telling us that schools and parents should ban children from having best friends.
The argument, they say, is that when a kid has a “best friend,” it’s psychologically damaging when that best friend suddenly isn’t – that it hurts their delicate psyche to be on the “outs” with the one peer they confided in.
Rather, they say, schools should ban kids from having “best friends” and should instead encourage them to have a small group of close-knit friends.
This is happening in some European schools, apparently, and what happens in the Old World eventually makes its way to the New.
Barbara Greenberg, a child psychologist, said she seems some merit in the idea. Ban best friends.
This, to me, seems like a Herculean task. The notion of choosing best friends is deeply embedded in our culture. Nonetheless, there is, in my opinion, merit to the movement to ban having best friends.
Certainly in life we all benefit from having close friends and confidantes – those who really get us. On the other hand, there is something dreadfully exclusionary occurring when a middle schooler tells the girl sitting next to her that she is best friends with the girl sitting in front of them. Of course, this scenario plays out in a variety of ways, but child after child comes to my therapy office distressed when their best friend has now given someone else this coveted title.
If children choose a close-knit circle of friends rather than just one, it will encourage them to be “more inclusive and less judgmental.” “The word “best” encourages judgment and promotes exclusion,” she writes.
How do parents accomplish this? Even Dr. Greenberg isn’t stupid enough to tell parents to outright order children to abandon their best friends. She says moms and dads should change the language they use with their children:
Instead, take a moment and breathe. Then consider making a bit of a shift to your vocabulary and talk to your children about the importance of having close friends. Put less emphasis on popularity and having best friends. In life, there is much to be gained from having a few close friends. Everyone brings something different to the table. Our lives are richer if we are closer with a few others rather than putting all of our eggs in one basket, right? This is true for children and adults. Think of all the wonderful opportunities you may have missed if you socialized exclusively with only one friend. Now think about your kids and help them broaden their perspective.
Greenberg addresses the common-sense response most parents would have: Kids need to toughen up. Yes, losing a best friend hurts but it’s not the end of the world and it’s good for children to experience that kind of loss.
But in her own soothing and saccharine way, Greenberg said she is thinking “big.”
“I am concerned about the bigger picture, which includes the pain associated with exclusion and the gentle comfort associated with inclusion,” she writes.
What do you think? Is this just nonsense or dangerous nonsense? How much bubble wrap can you put around your child before they can’t breathe anymore?