The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

RIP for BFF?

Incredibly, there’s a movement afoot to stop kids from having best friends.

I’m not making this up. Really.

Take a look:

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.


“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “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,” she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.”

That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. The days when children roamed the neighborhood and played with whomever they wanted to until the streetlights came on disappeared long ago, replaced by the scheduled play date. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. (Ms. Laycob was speaking in an interview after spending much of the previous day dealing with a “really awful” text message one girl had sent another.) Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion.


You can chew on more of that at the New York Times link.

UPDATE: The Anchoress has some ideas on this subject, too — and she’s not exactly thrilled with it.

Meantime, below is a happy memory from my childhood, and a TV theme song about best friends that still stays with me.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Cliques usually happen where there is a large group of friends, and they exclude one person. We should be encourage children to have best friends. So they don’t feel so left out if a clique does oust them.

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Dana MacKenzie

posted June 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Experts. They know nothing.

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posted June 16, 2010 at 11:32 pm

I remember being told the same thing when I was in the 8th grade at a local parochial school. I always connected it to the fear, among religious orders, of “particular friendships.” Obviously there was more to it.

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posted June 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

From the same foolish people who brought us “Every Child Left Behind” and the absurdity which culminated in 99% of all boys being ‘behaviourally disturbed’.
We need to do much more to help our students learn. We must stop bullying, especially of those students who don’t fit the local norms for their age and gender.
This, however, is just plain absurd. All people, in all cultures of which I know, tend to bond at young ages to someone ‘special’, whether it be another person or animal.
C.S. Lewis described this sort of pedagogic quite well in the Chronicles of Narnia. What a shame we haven’t progressed further since the 1950’s.

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David in Aus

posted June 17, 2010 at 3:39 am

We’ve had smilar moves in Australia. It is a logical societal step of course. With “Best Friends” children learn commitment and loyalty in their dealings with others, and learn to deal with the pain if the friendship breaks down. If we can nip this Best Friends Business in the bud, then we can encourage the youngsters to stay away from commitment, to break up easily and live the desired lifestyle of modern fashion. Is there a message about social engineering for us here?

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posted June 17, 2010 at 6:02 am

My ‘Best Friend’ and I have been best friends for 19 years now and whilst we have families and are busy we still live two minutes from each other and see each other every other day. My friendship provides someone who loves my family and who will give me an honest point of view. The support is unquestionable. As far as nasty people in year groups at school, There is always at least one! It’s to do with that child’s upbringing and lack of honesty. All you can do is fill your life with those who care enough about you to love you and respect your values and hopefully it will be passed on.

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posted June 17, 2010 at 8:23 am

Introverts don’t do well in big groups, so best friendships often benefit them the most. What does this mean for them?

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posted June 17, 2010 at 8:25 am

(I didn’t mean for my blog URL to be linked obnoxiously by the way, I thought that if you typed it into the URL box it would link your name in the comment like it does on most blogs. Sorry.)

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Shirely Ann

posted June 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

Reason # 93,300,789,456,123, not to entrust our precious children to public school “educators.”

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posted June 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm

URL I thought having life-long friends was the mark of a stable well-adjusted individual. If a school won’t let a child develop a best friend, how is he to develop a well-rounded emotional maturity?

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posted June 17, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Just more psycho-babble. I have had a “best friend” since I was 11. I’m much older than that now…and though we live many states apart, we stay in touch. More bologna from the “experts”. I’m a former teacher…and yes, you encourage children to play and include everyone in their play, but you certainly don’t discourage best friends.

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posted June 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Home school your kids. Keep them away from the government indoctrination centers. Haven’t they caused enough problems with their never-ending social engineering?

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posted June 17, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I used to love that show. Funny, I have been singing that theme song all week. My best friend went home to the Lord last week. Perhaps the only reason not to have a best friend is to avoid the pain that comes with losing your best friend. But I would not have traded the past 33 years for anything in the world. Be forever in the loving embrace of Jesus, my dearest and best friend!

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posted June 18, 2010 at 7:49 am

As a traditional Catholic, in a way, this makes a lot of sense.
First, our children shouldn’t be in these schools in the first place. Home school them and preserve their souls.
Second, children’s “best friends” should be their siblings. If parents would stop contracepting, both artificially and NFP which is just as evil, then children would have many brothers and sisters to interact with right at home.
Children shouldn’t be so attached to any one other child. They should be attached to mom, dad, Our Lady and God.

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posted June 18, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Not sure which is creepier… the push against best friends in schools or the mentality that all kids should be homeschooled and best friends must be siblings? Not sure where that is in Catholic teaching. What IS in Catholic teaching is the idea that kids grow up, leave home, and if they marry, will leave and cleave to a best friend that is not their sibling. Love homeschooling, etc., but don’t see why it has to be practiced in a way that isolationist or reactionary to the culture. What if your child is called to be a missionary? Hope they know how to bond outside Mom, Dad, and siblings! I think a balanced response is healthiest… kids should feel bonded to their families and also comfortable making friends in the greater community. Each friendship – biological or not – can add so much richness to a child’s life.

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posted June 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I home schools my son because I want to teach him what I believe to be good and true. The teachers at his Catholic school separated him from his best friends on a regular basis. He has one really good friend, and young though he is, he has one girl he says he’ll marry. Contemporary Culture regularly tries to redefine human relationships. Because I had 11 siblings, they were always my best friends. The times when I’ve been most unhappy are those that had me apart from them, spiritually, intellectually, physically. The Secular Contemporary view would be that I’m codependent and clannish. But I hope that my son will experience the joy of deep understanding and attachments THAT CAN ONLY COME FROM BEST FRIENDS.

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posted June 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Consider current thinking on this as “silly”.
In grade school, I had a series of “best friends” – usually someone for a grade or two. In my family, I was the oldest, then 6 girls were born, one every couple of years. My brother was born when I was a college freshman. Given that I was male, which of my sisters shoul have qualified as my “best friend”; and why?
Typically before (and even into) high school, “best friends” are people that you like and pal around with for a while. Families move, interests and tastes change. A “best friend” for a summer may not be there the next year.
Since marriage, (fifty-five years ago), I consider my spouse as best friend and human counselor. However, sometimes she’ll let me down. Only Jesus qualifies as someone who will never let you down.

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posted June 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Chris, since you feel that a child’s siblings should be their best friends,(because you feel that every couple should have tons of kids) what do you do for the couple that is physically able to have only one child? Just thought I’d ask. What does that child do…have Mom and Dad as best friends?

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posted June 19, 2010 at 6:54 am

I have relatives that believe their siblings should only be their best friends. Now that thos siblings are nearly all dead, those who are left feel so alone and friendless, because they only relied on their siblings to fill the need for friendship. Rhese family members are now in faith and emotional crisis. We need to have friends outside of our families in order to have optimum support. God has called us to be in relationship. At creation,, God said, “Man should not be alone.” I take these words further than mandating marriage. I also hear them as God stating that friendships are needed for the health and well-being of God’s creation.

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Marcus Woods

posted June 19, 2010 at 11:35 am

I don’t know where anyone read anything in either of these two blog posts about all children should be homeschooled. The Anchoress stated that this current push against best friends was another reason to CONSIDER homeschooling her children, if they were still in school.
As for siblings, they are or can be each other’s best friend in a way that no other best friend can be. I have five sons between the ages of 12 and 1. They is never more laughter and happiness or fighting and bickering than when the five of them are together. They hold for each other a deeper and more profound love than I have ever known or seen elsewhere. They stick together and defend each other against all comers, but can display an anger towards each other that they wouldn’t dream of showing to anyone else. Just as easily, they will give each other hugs, compliments and “I love you.” They are each other’s greatest fans and most honest critics. Through all of the difficult times they have faced in their young lives, they have stuck together and grown closer. Through the rest of their lives, they will never have anyone on whom they can rely upon more confidently than each other nor have anyone who will love them more honestly. They are brothers.
When my oldest was seven, he complained to his mother and me that some of the girls in his class were picking on him. The next day, my oldest, his mother and his four-year-old brother were entering school with their mother, when the four-year-old looked at his brother and said, “I’ll dump a box of rocks on them, if you want me to.” No love like brotherly love.

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posted June 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Great story, Marcus. I had a best friend with whom I road bikes, skateboarded, climbed apple trees, caught bees, built go-carts, built multiple tree houses and hay forts, and boated with. I wouldn’t have traded this childhood friend for the world, for all the good times and adventures we had.

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