Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaching children how to be a supportive friend

Yesterday Alyssa told me about an event that happened at school last week that prompted a little lesson about how to be a good friend. Here's how our conversation went.

A friend pulled a piece of fruit out of her lunch and said, "Look what I got, Alyssa!"

Apparently, since Alyssa does not like that particular fruit, she replied, "Oh, I don't like that fruit."

Well, her friend did not like that remark and told the teacher on her. At this point I was perplexed. Why would someone tell on you because you stated your opinion that you do not like a particular fruit? But I knew there must be more to the story, so I pushed on.

I asked Alyssa, "Why do you think your friend told on you for that?" She said she didn't know. Then, my brain started firing -- the friend's feelings were hurt. I see what happened!

I said, "Why do you think she showed you that piece of fruit?"

"I don't know," she replied.

"Because she was excited about it," I said. "She wanted you to feel excited for her."

I continued, "Remember how you were excited to show your friends your face painting from Fall Fest?"

"Yes," she said.

"Well, your friend was excited about what was in her lunch in the same way. Do you think next time you could say something like, 'Cool! I'm happy for you.' When she shows you something she is excited about?"

"Oh. Yeah. I can do that." Sweet!

Then, wouldn't you know it? Moments later I looked at Tyler's religion homework, and it touched on the same topic! OMG! How lucky am I?

I read her the words right off the paper -- "When something exciting happens to people, many of them want to share their good news with others."

So, when people share their good news with us, it's polite and loving to respond by letting them know we are happy for them -- even if what they are excited about is not a preference of ours.

I then proceeded to practice with her for the rest of the evening in funny, lighthearted ways to help get the point across.

I know Alyssa did not intend on hurting her friend's feelings by saying she did not like the fruit, but the delicate point is that there was something better she could have said.

She doesn't have to pretend she likes the fruit, but she could have been supportive and showed her friend that she was glad she had something in her lunch that made her excited. Hopefully we've learned a lesson that will stick!

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