Being a friend seems to be a subject that is a no brainer. In its simplest terms, this may be true. It appears that our kids can be a friend without much instruction. However, we need to guide our kids to understand that being a friend is really an art form. In today’s post, I would like to offer you some information that may serve as a resource in developing your kids into that friend to someone that can make the greatest impact.
When I was a kid, I had a friend named Jorge. I met him when I moved to a new town. I walked into a 4th-grade class in the middle of the school year and Jorge was the first one to nod and smile at me. To my delight and surprise, Jorge rode the same bus home. He lived close to my house. Well, the rest was history in the making. Jorge and I did everything together. We were practically adopted by each other’s parents. We played and lived at each other’s houses. It was like something out of a wholesome family movie. We fished, shot bb guns, built forts, climbed trees, and rode bikes. You could say that I was a great friend. However, it was easy to do as long as life was simple and good.
As our world expanded and we got older, it became clear that I was only a great friend out of convenience. Which I must say appears to be the same with most of us. As long as life meets our needs, we are easy to get along with. However, when life becomes difficult or more complex, friends of convenience have a way of disappearing or distancing themselves. I know this was the case with me. I didn’t like to share my friends, nor deal with heavy subjects.
It is hard to teach kids that friends are those that will go through hard times with us. We as humans like to avoid discomfort. We also may not know what to say to a friend that is hurting or struggling with a specific problem. However, it is in these times that friendships will truly be defined. The question is how do we teach our kids to “be there” as a great friend. Let me give you what I think is a great analogy to show them.
The best visual I can share with you is a sports teammate analogy. You can substitute this idea with a sport that you may be more accustomed to. For me, a friendship can best be explained looking at the game of soccer. For many people who don’t understand or follow the sport, it is just a bunch of players running around, kicking a ball, and trying to score. However, it is a very complex sport of plays, roles, and mindsets, that are very evident to the seasoned player. Nothing is better on a team than having a teammate that understands his/her role with regard to “space”.
All the complex plays and strategies fall under the idea of understanding space. As a good teammate, this has to do with 2 principles…creating opportunities and support. This knowledge is just as important as your ball-handling skills. When you do not have the ball, it is paramount that you get to a position of new opportunity to receive the ball. Running to a new forward position allows your teammate to have more options to advance the ball. Falling back behind your teammate with the ball is to give them support should they lose possession or need to pass back.
As friends, we need to understand that being too close can prevent us from being the most effective. In the sport of soccer, two players standing too close actually eliminates the opportunity. The term is called taking yourself out of the game. Think of it this way. If I have the ball and dribble past an opponent, I have, with one move beaten 1 player. If there are 2 opponents standing close to each other, then I can beat 2 players with one move.
To be valuable friends to those we care about, it is important that they know where you are, NOT that you are too close to make a difference. As a forward running teammate, I will raise or waive my arm so I can be seen as an option. When I am behind them, I need to be heard. They need to hear me say, “I got your back”. When we communicate in such a way to our friends that are hurting or struggling, we serve them best. Notice that in either role, we keep an eye on them. We don’t need for them to acknowledge us or communicate back. They just need to know.
Finally, whether we are talking about being a reliable friend or teammate, we must realize that they may or may not rely on us. Many people get their feelings hurt if they are not utilized. That is not friendship, nor is it a good teammate. When your friend or teammate has the ball, whether that ball is a literal ball or symbolic of a problem, it is not about you proving how great you are. It is about BEING great for that person…not your ego. Friends and teammates are READY to act. That does not mean that you will.
Being a great friend means understanding our role. As we teach our kids. It is important to take the opportunity to teach about space and communication. It is also about having a team mentality, not one that glorifies oneself as a great friend. Give them the tools to understand and be a valuable friend to others. Be the best dad possible.