3 ways my kids have taught me to be a better friend

Children are incredible teachers for adults. Having kids has expanded my heart and exposed my weaknesses in ways I could not have imagined. I am grateful every day that I get to be a father. Not because I do everything as well as I would like or because I want to be with my children every minute of every day (hey, they need breaks from me too!), but because it is a chance to love, be loved, learn, teach and experience life in ways that are so joyful and refreshing.

Friendship is one area where my kids have been wonderful teachers. Although I have been a friend much longer than they have, they approach friendship with an energy that is inspiring. As I thought about what I have learned, I identified three specific ways that my kids have taught me to be a better friend:

1. Take an Interest:

  • Remember Names. My kids take an unbelievable interest in their friends and classmates. They actually bring their elementary school yearbooks to bed with them in order to study the names of not only kids in their class but the entire school! I’m sure that you have experienced the comfort of someone remembering your name after only meeting you one time. Or maybe you have experienced the discomfort of someone calling you “champ”, “sport”, or “buddy” because they still don’t know your name after the fifth introduction. Learning someones name is on of the best ways to build rapport with a new friend.
  • Picture Future Friends. In learning the names of other kids in their school, they also take on an attitude that their school is filled with future friends. Why not go ahead and learn their names in advance? The world is much smaller and easier to relate to when you can identify someone as “Sherri Kruger” instead of “that lady that writes ZenFamilyHabits and Serene Journey.”
  • Listen. I am always so impressed with my kids (please excuse so many proud father moments) when it is time to buy a present for someones birthday party. They have such good ideas based on something they have heard in class or at recess. “Jack loves baseball” or “Abby was in a play about mermaids so I think she will love this”. I’m sure that their information could be off at times but they have cared enough to listen and tried to find something that would make their friend happy. A thoughtful gift creates a special moment.

2. Be Open:

  • Withhold Judgment. Have you ever noticed the lack of judgment that comes from young children? The labels and barriers of adulthood have not entered their realm. They are open to new friendships and generally have a low barrier to entry. Typically, the only requirement is that you want to play.
  • Forgive. Kids are also open to the idea of forgiveness. Conflict erupts on a regular basis and they find a way to move past it. Even if someone has uttered the line of last defense, “You’re not my friend anymore!”, the window of separation is tiny; often only seconds. Not only that, if you wait a few hours and ask the child “What happened?”, they usually have no recollection. The transgression is gone and forgotten.

3. Show Friends Their Value:

  • Tell Them You Enjoy Their Company. In the summer and on weekends, no good playtime ends without a request for a sleepover. What a great way to show a friend they are valued! It’s the kid way of saying “I am having so much fun playing with you that I with this would never end.”
  • Give and Receive Freely. My daughters have also made friends with some wonderfully generous kids. They are the kind of kids that would give away a present the day after their birthday. And kids know how to receive gifts as well. They realize that being able to receive a gift gives others the joy of giving.
  • Be Loyal. Many kids are also naturally loyal. Not only do they forgive past wrongs but they have an expectation for the future. They can’t imagine not being friends for the rest of their lives. Although change is inevitable, some have realized that it is special not only to have a friend but to keep a friend. Friendship is not about using someone to get what you want, it is what you want.

Friendship is a wonderful gift and kids are amazing teachers. What have you learned about friendship from your children? In what other areas are your kids inspiring teachers?

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Vince Robisch of Help Me Reinvent.