Teach your children to love

Friday 2nd February, 2024

I don’t think there’s any better example of bad parenting than telling your child that they can’t be friends with the “naughty” or “weird” or “difficult” kid.

I generally don’t do calling people “bad parent” ; parents face far too much judgment, especially mothers. We’re all really doing the best we can. However, parents telling their children “you are not allowed to be friends with that child” is everything that’s wrong with society.

The children whose friendships are destroyed by the cruel parents of their peers are generally the ones who most need friends, who need to be loved. They are the children with special educational needs, they are the neuro-divergent, the children who go home to empty cupboards, or to care for their sick parents, or to addicted or abusive parents. As if their lives aren’t challenging enough without them also having to deal with the pain of being told they aren’t “good enough” to be friends with. It’s so hurtful and damaging.

Children whose parents pick out their friends for them only from the pool of “nice, good, socially acceptable ‘normal’ children” are far more likely to grow up to become the adults who choose their friends based solely on what they can get out of the relationship, the adults who create a society that excludes and belittles the other. What’s more, their world will be smaller and so much less filled with colour, life and joy.

Teach your children not to exclude, but to be patient and kind, not to take from their friendships but to give to them. Teach your children to love and not just the loveable; teach them to love widely, radically and outrageously. Worried that child will be a ‘bad influence’ on yours? Teach your child strength of character, teach them to be able to think for themselves, to discern right from wrong, teach them to live by their own principles, set boundaries and assertively say ‘no’ to doing wrong. Teach your child a good sense of self, teach them not to succumb to a bad influence, moreover, teach them to be a good influence.

Sure, that may not always work, and when it doesn’t teach your child to learn from their mistakes.

But above all, teach your child to love, even when it’s not easy. That is the greatest thing you can do for them as a parent.