by Barbara Gruener
Shoes come in all shapes and sizes, but for a pair to be a good fit, it has to be the right shape and size for your feet, right? That’s why it’s best to try on a pair of shoes before you buy it.
And that’s kind of how it works with friends, too. Friends should have the qualities, interests, and values that connect with you if they’re going to be a good fit. What do your students look for in a friend? Brainstorm a list and find out. For example, is it important that your friends be nice? Pretty? Truthful? Kind? Respectful? Wealthy? Responsible? Athletic? Smart? Ambitious? Generous? Thin? Musical? What other things can you think of that might (or might NOT) make a good fit for your students? Give them time to explain their answers; you may be fascinated at your findings.
And just like friends, there are shoes that are tricky-fit shoes. You know the ones, they seem to fit you in the store, but when you try them on the next morning, they hurt your feet and don’t fit at all. You may even give them a try, but you quickly find they leave blisters on your feet. What kinds of things do tricky-fit friends do that cause blisters in the friendship? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Break promises? Spread rumors? Gossip? Hit? Use mean words? Ask students what they do with tricky-fit shoes, then find out what they would do with a tricky-fit friend. List their answers and help them practice some healthy strategies for taking care of themselves.
One that I like to suggest is taking a friendship time-out. We actually use our hands to make a T, signaling that we need a break, that something about the relationship isn’t working well right now, that we need a time-out. The T is a very empowering tool for a student who’s stuck in a yo-yo or tricky-fit relationship. What other gestures can students think of that might work? What other options do they have with tricky-fit friends? Finally, there are shoes that just don’t fit at all anymore. Teach your children that when friends go in a different direction and just don’t fit anymore, it’s okay to say good-bye and walk away. Role play how to do this with dignity and respect. These discussions are crucial to have and these skills important to practice as our littlest leaders learn to navigate socially through life and find good-fit friendships.
Need a good read about good-fit friendships? Check out these books:
Best Friends by Steven Kellogg
Being Friends by Karen Beaumont
Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme
Don’t Need Friends by Carolyn Crimi
Duck & Goose by Tad Hill
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
Fox Makes Friends by Adam Rolf
Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley
Miranda Peabody and the Magnificent Friendship March by Susan Debell
Nacho and Lolita by Pam Munoz Ryan
Nuggest and Darling by Barbara Joose
Our Friendship Rules by Peggy Moss and Dee Dee Tardif
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania
That’s What Friends Are For by Florence Parry Heide and Sylvia Van Clief
You Can Be A Friend by Tony Dungy