What I Want My Daughters to Know About Girlfriends

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How does a mother instill friendship? Alexandra Kuykendall lists some of the qualities she likes to emphasize when talking to her daughters about girlfriends.

I have a wish list of sorts for my four daughters. The things I want for them as they walk through life. And right at the top of that list is girlfriends. The kind that make you laugh until you fall out of your chair. The kind you can trust to keep a confidence. I want them to have this companionship both now, when friendship happens on the playground, and when they grow up and their chair of choice is a rocker.

But how does a mother instill friendship? It’s not something I can force or enforce. I can teach my girls concrete skills, like how to mail a letter or pour a bowl of cereal, with step by step instructions.  Relationships are organic and exist between two imperfect, nutty people who are often unpredictable and unreliable. Watching as they put their purple-painted toenails into the big pool of girlfriend-hood and guiding as they learn to navigate through choppy waters.

I have to remember my girls are just that … girls. Children. And their friends are children (which is appropriate right? I wouldn’t want my daughters hanging out with a bunch of 30-somethings). So all of those quirks I just mentioned about relationships being between two imperfect people, add general immaturity to the mix, because the people we are talking about demand water at a moment’s notice and throw themselves on the floor when said water isn’t delivered in their cup of choice. I need to lower my expectations a bit.

Because I don’t want to pick on any four-year-old’s behavior, they are still learning after all. I don’t get so much into the specifics of particular friendships, but rather focus on the attributes of a good friend. I say things like “Friends share” or “Friends don’t call each other names when they know it hurts.” Sometimes I’d like to say, “Ashley needs to watch her sassy language.” But then I remember Ashley is four, so I revert to general statements like, “Friends use encouraging words.”

Here are some of the qualities I like to emphasize when talking to my girls about friendship:

Friends are kind. 

When words are said to hurt on purpose that’s not okay. Sometimes friends unknowingly say or do things to hurt our feelings, and it’s our job to then communicate our hurt so our friends can do things differently the next time.

Friends listen. 

When playing, our friends need to take our ideas and opinions into account too. This is not a one-sided deal where one girl gets to call all of the shots. True friends hear what the other person is feeling and wanting.

Friends stand up for each other. 

On the playground or the school bus, if someone is getting picked on or bad mouthed a friend will point out her good qualities. Because friendship is not based on popularity or going with the crowd, it’s about knowing who you are and who matters to you.

Friends give each other space. 

We like to throw the BFF label around a lot. But you do not belong to someone else, and you certainly don’t have to be friends with someone forever. Relationships change over time, and if they are healthy people will choose to stay together. Friends let each other have other interests which includes other friends.

Playground or rocking chairs, these are the kinds of friends I hope for when I write GIRLFRIENDS in bold letters at the top of my wish list for my daughters.

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