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Up ’til this year, Simon has had a knack for choosing friends he’s not completely compatible with, while I’ve (largely fruitlessly) attempted to steer him in other directions. For three of his four years in preschool, he most loved a couple of boys who were much rowdier than he was. One of these boys was also incredibly sweet and had been with him since before they turned two. I understood, supported, and enjoyed that friendship, even as I had to be careful about what activities to choose for play-dates. The other boy, however, wasn’t as sweet, and that friendship had its ups and downs where Simon’s well being was concerned.

Meanwhile, there was a another boy, Griffen, who was an excellent match for Simon. A fact that, ironically, it took the end of preschool for Simon to fully appreciate. I spent years trying to push him in Griffen’s direction, only for the friendship to fully blossom after they went to separate schools for kindergarten. Better late than never I suppose.

Last year, too, Simon needed some help on the friends front when he encountered a friend who wasn’t always very nice to him. He also struggled to find boys who wanted to play the same way he did, with many of his peers wanting to run, chase, and tackle, and Simon wanting to play in a more organized fashion. At the end of kindergarten, Simon had one true best friend and a bunch of friendly acquaintances.

This year, the peer relations are much easier. Simon has identified a core group of nearly perfectly behaved, academically achieving, quiet kids, and he is sticking with them. These are the kids whose behavior color charts are only on the positive side, who compete with each other on online reading and math games, who are always nice to each other, and who are almost certainly destined to end up at the district’s most competitive high school.

Even better, Simon has met two lovely Brandeis children at soccer and tennis. Mia is a smart, sporty, and sweet third grader who plays on Simon’s soccer team; and Salil is a smart, sporty, silly (in a good way), and sweet third grader who plays tennis with Simon. These two are such great role models that I find myself grateful to them for being willing to hang out with a younger child.

And of course, Simon’s best friend remains Caroline, with whom I don’t think he’s ever had a cross word. That friendship is now five years old and continues to amaze me. In fact, the other day when I was teasing Simon about how much he loves soccer, the only thing he’d admit to liking more than soccer—including his father and I!—was Caroline. “But, sssshhh,” he told me. “Don’t say anything. I don’t want to hurt soccer’s feelings.”

So this should be the year that I do nothing where peer relations are concerned, the year I sit back and enjoy stress-free socializing.

If only it were that easy. One of his friends from last year, a smart and energetic kid I’m genuinely fond of, is starting to become an issue. Specifically, he’s threatening to tell on Simon for things he hasn’t done, was asking for and/or taking his lemonade at lunch, and was doing some other things that bothered or frightened Simon. At the same time, this child was also sending Simon notes about getting together for play dates, making him a huge custom card for Valentine’s day, and generally trying to advance the friendship.

Simon feels stuck. On the one hand, he doesn’t like how X is treating him. On the other hand, he’s afraid of hurting X’s feelings and wants to be friends. And on the third hand (Third hand? I guess this is where the metaphor falls apart!), he’s genuinely afraid of getting in trouble for something he didn’t do.

The third part is easy. I’ve mostly convinced Simon that if a child with a reputation for telling tales accuses him of doing something he’s never done and that is out of character for him, that the teacher is not going to punish him. He’s still anxious about this but almost believes me. I’ve also mostly convinced him that if X says or does something against class rules, he needs to say “no” and then ask for help from a grown-up if X doesn’t listen.That part is a little trickier.

The middle part is trickiest of all. I am nearly certain that Simon wants to be friends with X. I am absolutely certain that X wants to be friends with Simon, quite possibly more than anyone else in the class. The only way I see out of this is for Simon to coach X and learn to say things like “I don’t like it when you do/say that”, or “friends don’t do/say that to each other”, or even “if you want to be friends with me, you can’t do/say that.”

It’s a tall order for anyone, especially a 7-year-old. But if he can pull it off, I think it might be a win-win for everyone involved. That’s one mighty big if, though.


One Response to “Winning Friends and Influencing People”

  1. blg says:

    Yikes, that is a tough one. I am empathizing with you and wishing I had a concrete solution. Or even a glimmer of an idea.

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