Some schools are adopting a best friends ban policy that sets out to encourage more inclusion of all students as classmates build bonds.
When I was in school, there were two kinds of people: those who were constantly surrounded by a bunch of friends and those who had only one or two that seemed even remotely being seen with them.
I was not in the first category.
In exchange for not being part of the “in crowd” or the top cliques or whatever else one might like to label it, I had a few friends that I have to believe were more loyal than the others. Of those, I’m still close with a handful of them, some dating all the way back to first grade. (And believe me, at my age, any friendship that dates back that far is a long-running friendship!
But as Prince George headed to his first school, news emerged of what sounded like a curious policy at the school the young royal would attend. Since then, it has become apparent that it’s not necessarily an unknown concept.
Some schools are imposing a best friends ban of sorts, working into their school rules policies that discourage close friendships that exclude others in favor of broader associations across their peer groups.
The best example of such a policy is a rule that states a child can’t give invitations to a birthday party unless every child in the classroom is invited.
When I was in first grade, we gave Valentines cards to everyone — boys and girls. We spent what seemed like an outrageous amount of time doing this every February 14th, but at the end of the day, everybody went home with decorated little paper bags full of cards.
I get it. It’s the same mentality that gives everyone a ribbon for participating in an athletics day event, no matter how far in last place they wound up.
Inclusion isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Then again, there’s nothing wrong with allowing children to begin forming natural friendships that go a bit deeper if those mutual feelings actually happen.
One of my closest friends is a girl I met in first grade. That was 1976. We’re still friends. I can sit down with her and her husband (who I’ve known since 6th grade) and have a conversation and it’s like we picked up where we left off the last time we saw each other. The past few years, we’ve managed to get together once a year around Christmastime.
A policy that might interfere with the natural bonds that form organically in a classroom among children might have disrupted that friendship from forming, and I think that would be sad.
Some psychologists and parents argue kids become more well-adjusted when they have larger friend groups and can avoid negative feelings associated with feeling left out.
Critics, however, say the approach robs kids of the chance to form valuable coping skills. By grappling with mild social exclusion when they’re young, kids will emerge as more capable, resilient adults, these advocates argue.
While I can understand concerns about not wanting kids to feel isolated and alone — and that can happen easily — I can also see the concern that it does build critical skills.
How do you feel about this kind of effort to make sure everyone feels included at the possible cost of some one-to-one friendships that might otherwise form on their own if allowed?