Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Do You Want to be My Friend?

A couple weeks ago we were at the library and Reid walked right up to a boy about his age/size and stumbled through the following conversation:

"Hi, what is your name?"


"My name is Reid Szilagyi. Do you want to be my friend?"


The two played together for the duration of our stay.

I have to admit, my heart melted a little bit while watching the whole interaction. I've always tried to teach Reid to ask other kids for their names and to make eye contact when he introduces himself to them. But this was the first time he did so without any encouragement or coaching before hand. Previously, he'd spot a kid and then turn to me and say something like, "I want to play with that boy over there," and I'd remind him what to do. Sometimes he'd even ask me to come with him when he introduced himself. Mostly, he'd just walk up to kids and start playing without a formal introduction. However, I prefer the formal introduction. It feels more polite and creates a mutual understanding that two kids have both agreed to play together.

As the next two weeks have moved on I've realized this sort of formal introduction and invitation for friendship is unique, if not abnormal amongst kids (and their parents). A couple days later I picked Reid and Nell up from our grocery store Tot Spot and the employee told me how impressed she was with Reid's social skills. "He walked up to another boy and asked him his name and asked him if he wanted to play. It was so sweet."  This employee spends 30 hours a week supervising children age 1.5-8 spontaneously playing together, and she seemed sincerely (and pleasantly) shocked that a child would behave this way.

On two other occasions (once at the park and once at a kid's store play area) Reid approached children his age and made the same gesture. At the park, the little girl screamed to her grandmother "Grandma, this boy is talking to me." At the store the little girl scowled at him and shouted "No!" as she simultaneously used her upper body to hover over the lego table, making it clear to both Reid and Nell that they were not allowed to join her. Nell did not take this well. The girl's mother saw the whole thing and didn't bat an eye.

I am not writing this to blast those kids or their parents. I don't believe in forcing children to share toys. Our motto is always "Can I play with that when you are done?" And our answer is always "You can have a turn when I am done."

I'm just writing this as a reflection. As Reid has gotten older he has taken a great interest in playing with other kids. It felt natural to teach him how to do that without my help. I won't always be by his side to introduce him to new friends. I won't be organizing his play dates forever. I needed to give him a formula that could prove successful. I thought I'd found one. "What is your name?"  "My name is Reid, do you want to be my friend?" But in a few shorts days I saw him fail more often than succeed. One out of three doesn't seem like great odds when you are trying to make friends.

This reflection may not even have a point. I could have ended this whole post with the simple library story. Then, it'd be a short and sweet write up about my adorable little boy. But I feel compelled to share the other attempts. The failures.

I want my kids to know some friendships don't work out. That doesn't mean it is their fault. I want them to know how to greet people politely. I want them to handle rejection with grace. Mostly, I just want them to know it is their responsibility, when they are adults, to teach their own children these most basic social skills.

Kids do not innately learn these things when they start going to school. Day cares are not a proper resource for giving kids strong social and emotional skills. Emotional intelligence must be taught in the home. It must be taught.

If for any reason, my children are ever in the mood to turn down a request for friendship, I want them to respond with kindness and grace. "I don't feel like playing right now, but thank you for the invite." "I need to ask for permission before I can do that." "I would love to be your friend, but right now isn't a good time." I want them to find polite words to express whatever feelings they have at any given moment.

I want them to keep asking other kids to be their friend.  

1 comment:

Grandpa B said...

I'm happy to be one of Reid's friends. What a sweet little boy...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...