Good friends are hard to come by. As children and even as adults, many of us have to learn and understand what being a good friend truly is. We want our kids to know what it means to be a good friend and to keep a good one around. Just as you train children up in the way they should go, likewise you can learn how to help your child be a good friend.
This post is part of the Building Virtues in Your Children Series
I do not take the word friend lightly.
Friend: a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.
This is the first definition I found for the word “friend.” It sounds pretty technical. However, to me, being a friend is so much more. A friend is someone who sticks by you in the good and the bad, one who is consistent when you are around or are far away. Friends are honest, sometimes brutally honest. Your friend will know you, and you will know them.
For so many years in my youth, I spent a lot of time building a wall. I built the wall because I experienced more and more people hurt me; more and more people use me. It made me understand what I wanted and what I didn’t want in a friend. I think many of you can relate.
I had to learn (sometimes the hard way) that I also needed to possess the qualities that I was expecting from a friend. That took a little longer road for me to walk through. If I wanted to be a good friend, I also had to be one.
Because of my background and the hurt caused me, I found it hard to trust anyone. Thankfully, the Lord brought me my best friend in the whole world. However, even then, we both had to work on trusting each other. We had to learn to let someone “in” despite the people who almost broke us.
We learned to be good friends, but that wasn’t until we were already adults. As parents, we aim to be better. We want more for our children, we want them to be better. Therefore, we work towards teaching our children to be good friends while they are still under our purview.
As Christians, we understand that the best way for us to teach our children is with God’s good and perfect word. It is suitable for edification according to the need of the moment (Ephesians 4:29). That includes edification in working towards becoming good friends.
Here are a few things you can do to help your child be a good friend:
1. Encourage honesty
It is always better to be honest than to tell a little white lie. Especially when it comes to the Kingdom of God, telling the truth is crucially important. It is a commandment. Your kids should know that they should be truthful to their friends or anyone.
Model being a truth-teller at home, and when asked things you do not know, take your children to God’s Word for the answers. They will learn that the truth comes from God. These activities from Counselor Chelsey can provide hands-on practice for teaching kids the value of being honest.
Being truthful goes alongside kindness and tactfulness. Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer.” When seeking to your children, make it a habit to be honest without condemnation or insult. Your child will glean from you.
2. Encourage empathy
There are several things we can do to teach our children empathy. We can help our kids learn how to actively listen by asking questions. They can pay attention to the needs of their friends. Kids should also learn about other cultures, people, and backgrounds.
Learn to role play with your kids about characteristics you would like them to display with other kids. Ask your child questions and have them answer how they would react to certain situations (i.e., others bullying a friend, if a friend falls in front of everyone, etc.) These actions will help them react accordingly and be aware of needs as they interact with friends.
3. Encourage selflessness
This may be one of the most difficult character traits to help your children break free from, self-centeredness/selfishness. Learning to be selfless is tough, even for us. We seem to be innately apt for self-preservation.
Remind your kids to give more than take, and emphasize that people are more important than things. 1 Corinthians 13:4 reminds us that love doesn’t insist on its way, so help your kids understand the value of putting others first. 1 Corinthians 10:24 and Philippians 2:4, says: No one should seek their good, but the good of others.
4. Encourage being trustworthy
Hold children accountable. If they say they will do something, they should do it. Help them understand that not carrying out their word will do the opposite of build trust. It will break down trust. Assigning shoes is a great way to practice this skill.
Kids should feel confident that their friends will not spread gossip. Make sure you are modeling a character that also does not gossip. Proverbs 11:13 says, “A talebearer reveals secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter.”
Free Trustworthy Test for Kids School Counselor Guidance Lesson | Creative Counseling Ideas
5. Encourage being thoughtful
Be intentional about telling your child what a good friend resembles as opportunities arise. Explain to your kids that to see a need, means an opportunity to meet the need. This could start as little as keeping an ear towards what a friend may want or need. As you meet the needs of family and friends, get your kids involved in how you meet those needs.
As you can see, raising a child that becomes a good friend has a lot to do with how we treat others ourselves.
If you need a resource to begin helping your child become a good friend, grab this How to Be A Good Friend – A Free Printable Book For Kids from The Kitchen Table Classroom.
Check out these books that can help your kiddos learn about friendship:
Big Wolf and Little WolfThis Way, CharlieThose ShoesHow to Lose All Your Friends (Picture Puffin Books)Big AlEnemy Pie : (Reading Rainbow Book, Children’s Book about Kindness, Kids Books about Learning)
Above all else, there are two actions we can take daily to teach our kids how to be a good friend. We can be the example our kids need to see. In addition to being a good friend, we can also pray with them about friends for their health or specific needs.
Making friends is not easy. Keeping friends can be even harder. With help, our children can learn to discern rightly and be someone worthy of true friendship. How to help your child be a good friend can be taught at an early age and continued through their teenage years. My college student still asks for advice on her friendships, even ‘til this day.
Help build children practice good character and habits (including being a good friend) with the resources below:
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!