Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Marginalizing The Best Friend?

Hah! Where else but in the New York Times?

But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.

As the calendar moves into summer, efforts to manage friendships don’t stop with the closing of school. In recent years Timber Lake Camp, a co-ed sleep-away camp in Phoenicia, N.Y., has started employing "friendship coaches" to work with campers to help every child become friends with everyone else. If two children seem to be too focused on each other, the camp will make sure to put them on different sports teams, seat them at different ends of the dining table or, perhaps, have a counselor invite one of them to participate in an activity with another child whom they haven’t yet gotten to know.

Still, school officials admit they watch close friendships carefully for adverse effects. “When two children discover a special bond between them, we honor that bond, provided that neither child overtly or covertly excludes or rejects others,” said Jan Mooney, a psychologist at the Town School, a nursery through eighth grade private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. "However, the bottom line is that if we find a best friend pairing to be destructive to either child, or to others in the classroom, we will not hesitate to separate children and to work with the children and their parents to ensure healthier relationships in the future."

I snapped that pic of the ridiculous and no-doubt highly persuasive poster at the local government elementary school this summer. I was busting a gut while shooting the shot and some male teacher/administrator who was walking buy stopped, glared at me, and walked past shaking his head most disapprovingly. It's too bad he didn't say anything to me....I could have responded, "GET AWAY FROM ME YOU BULLY!"

Do I think it healthy for kids (or adults) to have close friends to the point of exclusivity?

No, I most certainly don't.

But I sure as heck don't think childhood friendships the province of government agents/experts.

So why do kids need or seek out *best friends*?

Well, I've covered this before in - Complete Book Review - Hold Onto Your Kids.

Essentially, children, on some levels, are not old enough to cope with parental separation. So they seek what they would naturally have in that relationship: security, intimacy, etc. - elsewhere. The problem, obviously, is that other children aren't mature enough to fill that void.

Definitely visit that prior post as it's filled with great insights and bang-bang excerpts.

Getting back to *bullying*...

Here we see it yet again. Schools create a problem - by disrupting millennia-tested family structures - and then stand up and say they are going to solve/manage the resultant problems.

Thanks to reader BrianC who brought this to my attention via Mark Steyn's remarks.

(Note to Taylor - You have to stop signing your emails "BFF".  Thanks.)

1 comment:

Taylor Conant said...


I figure if I just keep signing them that way, one day you'll realize just how much your friendship really means to me!


Btw, on the one hand this stuff drives me nuts and I want the insanity to stop right now, but on the other hand, I kind of want to live forever and be there 1,000 years from now to see where these logical absurdities have evolved to... got to be some stuff that would be so rich that it'd put my good friend Jerry Seinfeld out of work, as well as all other comedians everywhere.