Learning How to Be a Friend – Friendship in Young Children





Learning How to Be a Friend – Friendship in Young Children

Teaching our children how to be a friend is one of the biggest growth areas in their social and emotional skill sets. It may seem like an innate behaviour, as children typically gravitate and start interacting with other children without much encouragement, however friendship is a learned behaviour, with experiences and knowledge of how to be a good friend coming directly from how they are taught.


We’ve all heard a young child say to another “you’re not my friend anymore” and we often just shake our heads and tell them that it isn’t nice to say that. Young children, while they really want friends to play with and interact with, don’t tend to have the social skills to always be a good friend. Let’s face it, young children tend to throw temper tantrums, they say mean things without realising the consequences, and they can suddenly lash out and hurt someone over the smallest of things. Of course, this all comes back to not being able to express what they are feeling in an appropriate way because they don’t know how to.


So how do we teach young children, who often struggle to express their feelings, how to be a good friend and be aware of the feelings of others?


One of the first steps is teaching self-esteem and teaching our children on how to be good members of society. When a child is confident within themselves, and understands who they are, they don’t tend to find it necessary to be mean to or bully other children. In fact, with a healthy sense of self esteem and confidence, children tend to make better and longer lasting friendships and have the skills to avoid toxic relationships as they get older.


Teaching the appropriate social skills is so important to a child learning how to both make friendships and how to be a good friend. As with friendship in general, these social skills aren’t innate – as outgoing as your child may be, they aren’t born with the knowledge on how to initiate conversation and how to be a friend. The best way to teach your child the right social skills is to role-play as part of their play-based learning. Teaching your child to say no, how to accept someone else saying no and how to sincerely apologise is essential, as is knowing how to listen, how to express empathy and how to respectfully put their point across. 


While it may seem like your pre-school aged child is too young to argue their point respectfully, these are skills they will always need to work on, so putting down strong foundations when they are younger will certainly help them develop these skills as they get older.


It can be hard to teach a child how to be a good friend without examples, so there are two ways to present this to your children. The first is of course, being a good friend yourself and setting a good example. Your child is always watching and listening to your behaviour, even if you don’t think they are, and how you treat your friends is how your child will learn to treat friends.


Secondly, books about friendship are an excellent way to teach children how people from different backgrounds can be friends. Children’s books are often quite strong on the friendship angle, and books allow your child to explore and ask questions about friendships, and the qualities you need to be a friend. Reading them books about friends who are very different from each other is also a great way to show them that even people who have differences can still be friends.


Most of how we teach our children about friendship comes down to having a combination of resilience, and awareness as well as a strong sense of wellbeing. At Treasured Tots, our holistic Wellness Program nurtures the mind, body and soul of our children, letting them learn how to understand themselves, their emotions, and the world around them through activities such as art, movement, mindfulness and physical activity. Mindfulness in particular, through use of meditation, positive affirmations and self-awareness practices can help children develop an awareness and acceptance of themselves as well as others around them.


If you’d like to speak to our educators on how our Wellness Program can help your child learn how to be a good friend and make long-lasting relationships, please book a tour with your closest centre. We’d be happy to sit with you and talk about the benefits and the exciting outcomes we’ve been seeing with our Wellness Program.


Treasured Tots Child Care

Child Care & Day Care Centres In Mandurah , Western Australia