The End of Best Friends?

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Education, Parents & Families, Youth Culture & Trends

I was recently reading Group magazine and came across an interesting article from the New York Times, which the question was asked; “Should BFF’s be discouraged in schools?”  Now just in case you’re not quite up to snuff on your abbreviations…we’re talking about Best Friends Forever…something that most likely all of us have attached to someone, or been attached to us, during our child-hood years. 

We have a 5 year-old son and 7 year-old daughter who are just learning the social paradigm of friendships, of which some rock, and others just roll away!  Although our son is pretty content with ‘whatever’, our daughter, at this point in her early development, pretty much identifies anyone in her class as her best friend…actually…pretty much anyone who spends more than 10 quality minutes with her…she loves people!  Both our kids do quite well in one-on-one play times, and they equally adjust in large groups.  So is there a problem with identifying best friends within our generic circle of friends?  The reasoning in the article goes both ways…some believe the BFF culture increases the likelihood of cliques, and lessens the child’s ability to adapt socially in group settings. 

We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends. Parents sometimes say ‘Johnny’ needs that one special friend…we say he doesn’t need a best friend.” ~Christine Laycob, director of counseling Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, MO~

On the other side, there’s a recent study done by Harris Interactive which suggests 94% of 8-24 year-olds surveyed (3000+ in total) have at least 1-2 ‘best friends.’  Have BFF’s created an exclusivity within friendship clusters that say DO NOT ENTER, or is this just part of growing up and experiencing the normal ebb and flow of relationships ?  Michael Thompson, a psychologist and author of the book “Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children” shares his thoughts;

When a teacher is trying to tone down a best-friend culture, I would like to know why.  Is it causing misery for the class? Or is there one girl who does have friends but just can’t bear the thought that she doesn’t have as good a best friend as another? That to me is normal social pain. If you’re mucking around too much in the lives of kids who are just experiencing normal social pain, you shouldn’t be.”

We live in a culture that embraces causes and controversy…always looking for some kind of issue that generates opinions on both polar sides.  So what do you think?  Is this ‘monitored/regulated BFF issue something of merit?  Do you feel it’s necessary to encourage non-exclusive friendships in childhood…where “everybody knows your name” (thanks Cheers), or should we all seek to develop those ‘best buds’ friendships with 1-2 others whom you share all your deepest secrets with, and are attached to the hip with? 

I want to give you the opportunity to share your opinions/feedback with this handy dandy poll…you can give up to 2 responses.  Have a different opinion?…leave a comment…we’d love to hear from ya!

  1. James Byers says:

    This is a huge interference by parents and teachers. the point of school is to learn, not only about maths, sciences, and English, but also to learn socially. The skills we develop in school determine who we are. For example i am 14 years old, i hang out with quite a large group of people and are therefore in a huge circle of friends. However in every circle of friends there is always a “alpha” a person always at the center of attention and sets the bar for the others, (in this case it’s me). As the leader of my group i have responsibility, but like an army i have lieutenants, an inner circle of people who are my closest friends, AKA my best friends.
    therefore the discouragement of best friends is irrelevant, the social skills of a teen or a child is made by the amount of independence given to them by an adult or parent.
    In my case my parents try and “raise me how they want,” this lack of independence is What triggers rebellion in people. Any kid exposed to true freedom ( like i have at school) never wants to go back to being controlled, (like at my house). However i have moved passed home and gone behind my parents backs to get what i want.
    In conclusion trying to control a child or a teens social life is pointless. We will defeat any attempt to control us, we aren’t experiments in labs, we are the next generation of the world that will one day be in power and run things how we want the question is will you stop holding us back and parenting us our entire lives? Or will you tell us what to do and have us totally dependent on you?
    -James Byers II
    Age 14

  2. D. Bradley says:

    I think some kids will find a couple of best friends no matter what adults do to discourage that. Maybe they won’t be allowed to refer to them as BFF’s, but they’ll find a way to spend more time with them than others. On the other hand, some kids will be friends with a much larger group. I think it’s important for kids who have a best friend, to be sure to include others when the opportunity arises. That’s what we should be talking about and teaching.

    On a personal note, I was friends with everyone in my classes growing up, but I also had a couple BFF’s. Those two friends I met in Grade 1 and I am still very close with today, 25 years after graduating. As for all the other “friends”, I have no idea where they are today.

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