New reports are suggesting that the old notion of a “best friend” may not really be a good idea. Recently, schools, camps, and other places where kids are have begun encouraging groups of friends rather than a best friend. In fact, one camp employs a friendship coach that works to diminish smaller groups of close friends, or two best friends, and aims to increase friendship amongst everyone. Forced friendships? A recipe for disaster, as I see it. There are, however, pros and cons to the argument.
Firstly, when kids only focus on one friend, they often do it to the exclusion of others. When that friend lets him/her down, where does he/she go for support? It’s the old “eggs in one basket” issue. Focusing solely on one friend can lead to disappointment and heartbreak. But is that necessarily such a bad thing? Isn’t the best (and possibly only) way to know how to distinguish between a good friend and a bad friend to have had both? Once you learn the difference, you can begin to choose more wisely.
Another potential benefit is that encouraging friendships amongst groups may allow for greater acceptance of differences. Being exposed to all sorts of kids may help open one’s eyes to how those differences could be great and wonderful. However, no research supports that bullying or cliques decrease just because group friendships are encouraged. In fact, they may increase and the negative behaviors may be more secretive. We need to see how this idea plays out.
Overall, it seems to me that maybe we are over thinking it all a little too much. Children gravitate toward those that they like. Sometimes they make great choices; other times, they fall flat. Don’t adults do the same thing, thought? Kids need to be encouraged to be kids. If the adults in their lives just let things play out a little more, without intervening or micro-managing, it is amazing what will happen (and in fact, friendships may be broader, more inclusive and really strong as a result).
Here’s the clip from The Early Show segment: