a good friend

10 Things Your Kids Should Look for in a Friend

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When I was in kindergarten, I remember having two particular friends. It was so long ago I don’t remember much about that relationship, but I do remember one thing. One day, I went out for recess and the two of them came after me. I managed to fend them off physically, but I was emotionally hurt. At that age, I couldn’t put it to words, but I felt betrayed and alone. I chose my friends poorly.

Human beings are designed to “do life” together in relationships. The people we choose to surround ourselves with and invest in will have a deep impact on us. That’s why it’s so important that our kids have the right kinds of friends. They need to know what makes a good friend. Here are 10 things to look for when it comes to our children’s friends.

1. Common values

Peer pressure is a huge factor with children. It’s important that your kids keep the company of friends who affirm the values your family promotes. Ask your child; it’s something they’re sure to know.

2. Character

Do your kids’ friends have the strength of character to stand out from the crowd when the crowd is wrong? Does their behavior hold up away from your house or do their colors change when you’re out of range?

3. Courage

This is an extension of #2: We’re talking about the courage to do what is right. This isn’t about being reckless; however, doing what’s right often takes guts, and it’s critical to have friends willing to stand alongside.

4. Kindness

Bullying doesn’t just happen in the locker room. Bullying takes place among so-called friends at an alarming rate. Kindness is critical in healthy friendships. Bullying grows in a permissive environment; it turns out that kindness does too.

5. Reliability

Can your child count on their friend? If they say they’re coming over, do they show up? If they make plans together and something else “better” comes along, then what do they do? Do they keep their word or do they disappoint?

6. Parity

Healthy friendships involve give and take. If one child is always making the decisions and pushing the agenda, then it’s not friendship; it’s top dog and sidekick. Ask your child about who makes the plans.

7. Loyalty

Remember the story of the great Hebrew king David and his friend, Jonathan? They are a great example. They stuck up for each other even when it was difficult. Friends are people we can count on. They may not be able to fix everything, but they are always there for us.

8. Honesty

Does your child’s friend tell the truth? Your child needs to be confident their friend does not lie. Honesty and trust go hand in hand.

9. Generosity

This is something that must go both ways. That means looking out for your friend’s happiness ahead of your own. Does your child’s friend share? Do they buy presents out of their own money or do the parents always cover? Do they eat the last cookie or offer it to their friend? Generosity at its best is a mutual experience.

10. Humility

Does your child’s friend fess up when they’re wrong? Do they ask forgiveness when they’ve fallen short? Are they willing to make themselves vulnerable when they need help? Real friends are not afraid to ask for help.

For dads, the “twist” here is self-evaluative. Are these qualities I possess as a father? Are these principles that I practice in my own relationships? Does my child see these bullet points modeled in Dad? Would you like someone like you to be best friends with your child?

Sound Off

What conversations have you had with your kids about their friends?

  • Mark Walker

    All great qualities to look for and encourage in your children first (and their friends). While it is difficult to observe all of these behaviors at early stages of a child’s friendship (the point at which you might be able to influence the relationship more), I find that the best way to “grade” a kid is by how they treat their siblings, particularly younger ones. If you observe these traits in how they treat a younger sister or brother, you know you have a good kid on your hands.

  • Rod Turner

    The matter of “choosing” friends seems to surface everyday in our household. I teach my kids to love everyone and forgive-and-forget if a “friend” says something hurtful. After all, we are talking about 10-year-olds here. My wife is far more realistic and practical. She helps our daughters monitor their friendships. My wife knows that kids will act in mean ways.

    On the one hand, it is good that my wife and I “balance” these seemingly opposing views. On the other hand, our opposing views seem to create family friction at times.

    Any thoughts about balancing the necessity of teaching “love” for others, even when they act meanly, and holding the bar too high? Even the nicest friends probably only meet 5 or 6 of the criteria at their best moments. I don’t consider trends at this age either, as ten-year-olds are maturing rapidly, and their personalities will be undergoing only faster evolution as they become teenagers.

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Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you look for in a friend?”

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