- - Sunday, June 24, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Culture Challenge of the Week: Micromanaging Friendships

Best friends.

They’re a natural, wonderful blessing in life, aren’t they?

Chances are, you have a favorite memory of your childhood best friend. Perhaps, like the little girls in our neighborhood, you topped your notes with “B.F.F” (“best friends forever”), bought trinkets with hearts and hands intertwined, and spent hours together after school and at weekend sleepovers.

Or, like some teenage boys I know, you shot basketballs together endlessly, jammed on your guitars for hours, and hung out in each other’s family rooms, always eating, glued to ESPN.

In the process, you grew in loyalty, trust and selflessness, learning how to open yourself and to “be there” for another person, no matter what. Even when that friendship wasn’t easy, or if it ended dramatically, you learned something about the value of intimate friendships and the trust that sustains relationships.

“Best” friendships in childhood don’t always happen, and they certainly can’t be forced, but when found, they’re a treasure.

Except in the minds of preachy liberals. For them, “best friends” are a threat, undermining the almighty value of “inclusiveness.”

The politically correct crowd, backed by left-wing “professionals” in education and psychology, has reached a new low: In schools across the country, they are taking aim at “unhealthy” childhood friendships. Not content with banishing sweet treats from vending machines and school cafeterias, the so-called “progressives” have decided that “best friends” have to go, too.

Why? Because their controlling ideology requires inclusion, sameness and equality of outcome. And the whole idea of “best friends” smacks of elitism, exclusion and preference. What about the kids who feel left out? Or who wish they had best friends, too?

Someone’s feelings might get hurt.

And in their empty mindset, freedom — even the freedom to have a best friend — is expendable in the great quest to make sure no one ever feels left out or has hurt feelings.

So education “experts” and school psychologists in many communities have decided that children must be “friends with everyone,” according to a recent story in the New York Times. Overheated rhetoric about the dangers of bullying and cliques provides cover for this latest experiment in social engineering. For these secular soothers, a safe educational setting is one that spares children from negative feelings of exclusion.

Part of the problem is that stomping out exclusive friendships — the natural inclination to pair off with a best buddy — is the only way these experts can think of to encourage civility and kindness in schools, camps and children’s activities.

They won’t talk about the virtue of kindness or God’s command to love your neighbor. Teachers can’t admonish students to treat others kindly — or rebuke them for being mean — based on an objective sense of what’s good, moral or right.

Besides equality (or sameness), the only other value they can think of is health. As one such professional declared, “I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for a child to rely on one friend.” Similarly, a school psychologist in New York warns that if teachers believe the friendship excludes others or is otherwise “destructive” (however vaguely defined), “[W]e will not hesitate to separate children and to work with the children and their parents to ensure healthier relationships in the future.”

How to Save Your Family: Encourage Rich Friendships

Deep friendships, bonded by natural affinity, similar values and common experiences, enrich life. Indeed, most adults have, or desire to have, a close friend and draw joy, encouragement and support from those relationships.

Why would we want less for our children?

Our challenge as parents (and educators) is not only to talk to our children about the value of relationships, but also to show our children how to have right relationships. Teach your children to mine the Bible for insights on friendship. The Book of Psalms sings the blessings of friendship and the Book of Proverbs instructs on both good and bad friendships. And Jesus himself gives the best example of what true friendship means.

A well-balanced childhood includes time for both group activities and more personal interactions with one or two others. Strike that balance and foster rich friendships for your children by providing opportunities for them to get together with a few friends, apart from the pack. You may need to nourish those budding friendships by initiating invitations or structuring fun activities while they test the waters of friendship.

Don’t let anyone convince you or your children otherwise. Best friends are a blessing!

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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