Teaching my daughter the rules of friendship (according to me)

Recently, my daughter – Lou – has made a new friend – let’s call her Lily.  Lily and Lou have known each other since year one, when they started in the same class, but have never played together before.  Then, with the lighter nights of summer, Lily – who lives six doors down from us in the next street – started knocking on our door asking Lou if she wanted to play out.

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After talking to Lily’s mom, despite much nervousness, I said yes.  The girls are nine after all and need to be given some independence and I wanted Lou, who always plays with boys at school, to maybe build a good female friendship – one that would see her through her school years. On paper, Lily and Lou have a lot in common, so I thought, “why not?”

For weeks now, Lou and Lily have been happily bopping between each others houses almost every day after school and most weekends. I say happily because, as the weeks have gone on, I’ve noticed Lou becoming less enthusiastic about the whole adventure and, lately, she’s come home from Lily’s house more than once a little teary.

When I’ve asked her what is wrong, she says Lily’s been mean to her and called her names.  I’ve asked Lily’s mom, who has basically said they have been playing nicely but then seemed to get into fights when it’s time to go home.   It makes sense, but it’s still been worrying me.  So, nervous parent that I am, I’ve taken to spending more time in close quarters with the girls, listening in.

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And what I’ve realised is that, Lily isn’t that nice.  In fact, if she wasn’t a kid, I’d say something much worse. Listening to her talk to my daughter, I didn’t like what I was hearing at all.  Lily spends a lot of time telling Lou she isn’t good at things or that she isn’t making sense when Lou says something to her.  Then, when Lou wants to do something, Lily always says no and sits with her arms crossed refusing to do anything till they do what Lily wants.

Now, I know kids are kids and I get that.  I also know Lou isn’t perfect and has plenty of mood swings of her own.  But one thing I will say about her is that she is a caring person with a wonderfully sweet nature. And it’s this nature that worries me.  Over the last few weeks I’ve watched her bend over backwards trying to make Lily happy and it never working.  It’s no wonder she’s ending up in tears so often.

This weekend, it came to a bit of a head when Lily came to my house and refused to leave when Lou asked her too because it was time for tea.  Words to the effect that she could do what she wanted came out of Lily’s mouth and that if Lou made her leave, she would stop people talking to her at school.  I felt I needed to step in, and step in I did, perhaps a little more forcefully than I needed to but I also felt that I was at the end of my rope, walking Lily home and speaking to her mom.

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After taking Lily home, I sat down with Lou and we had a good long talk about friendship.  I told her that I didn’t like how Lily was behaving.  Friends, I said, should be people who build you up, make you feel better about yourself and be there for you no matter what, not just because you do what they want you to do. They shouldn’t pick on your flaws or your faults or laugh at you make a mistake, but laugh with you when something goes wrong so you can see the lighter side.

I had been in two minds whether to say anything but, when I was done, it felt right.  I want my daughter to grow up to be a confident young woman and if that means not being friends with someone who makes her cry, then that’s o.k. with me.  I think it might be o.k. with Lou too given that she said to me this morning that she is glad she doesn’t have to go out with Lily anymore.

What do you think? Did I do the right thing? Do you struggle with this with your children? How do you handle it?

Emma x

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