Schools banning best friends

  • 19 January 2018
  • NormanL
Schools banning best friends

There are many things schools should do, and do well: teaching children to read, write, to solve equations. There are some things schools absolutely should not do, which includes banning best friends.

Wait, what? Schools are trying to stamp out best friends? Why on earth would they do such a thing?

Most parents know that schools have been doing this informally for some time, but psychologist Barbara Greenberg caused a stir with a recent piece in US News & World Report, noting that she sees a trend of American schools implementing an actual ban.

Greenberg approves of the move because she is concerned by what she calls the “emotional distress” of a kid losing the status of best friend or the “inherently exclusionary” nature of best-friendship itself. Greenberg writes that “child after child comes to my therapy office distressed when their best friend has now given someone else this coveted title.”

Is it tough for a 6-year-old when their best friend drops them? Of course. But shake it off, kid, life gets much harder than that. As my babushka used to say, “Let this be the worst thing that ever happens to you.”

We don’t say that enough to children anymore. Our desire to shield kids from all pain results in them growing into adults who are unable to handle adversity. When we start meddling in the dynamics of their friendships, it should be a universal sign that we are going too far.

It’s not just about the folly of trying to shield kids from theoretical emotional distress. The best-friend ban shields children from actual joy. In the backlash to Greenberg’s piece, people argued the benefits of best-friendship. On Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” psychotherapist Nell Daly cited a University of Virginia study that found that kids who have a best friend growing up have “less social anxiety” and better mental health.

But there’s a good case to be made that even debating the relative merits is a concession to nanny-staters they don’t deserve. If a study released tomorrow showed that kids will grow up to be healthier, smarter and richer if they don’t make any friends at all, we still shouldn’t encourage that.

Nevermind how a school would enforce a "no best friends" policy, either in school or away from it. The idea that any school should be policing friendship is laughable. 

They need to stick to the fundamentals of education -- and leave the complexities of friendship to the kids.