As thousands of children start their new schools they begin the painstaking job of making new friends.
Prince George is attending a new school with the ethos “Be Kind”. It has been in the press that individual best friends are not encouraged, with the children mixing in large groups.
I don’t think I’d like to be the one who says to a child: “No, you cannot hang around with the one person who makes you laugh, sticks up for you and shares a Pink Panther wafer. Instead, mix with that group of strangers, two of whom you instantly hate, one just cries constantly, one won’t stop picking his nose and the other keeps punching you in the arm, hard.”
Yep, and then you grow up, start work and it all starts again, only with more expletives.
The most important lesson you learn at school is how to get on with people. Reading, writing and learning to finger-paint an elephant is well and good but understanding your fellow man and woman is essential to moving through life without wanting to smash your head against a wall.
From the minute children enter nursery they are on the path of human behaviour which will bring joy to their lives, or make their heart sink like a brick at the sound of another’s voice.
The earlier you start socialising the better, so you can develop the knack of becoming friends with people with whom you may only share a sarcastic mindset or who you simply like, for no apparent reason.
It is also essential to learn to spot the bully, the one in every large group who feels bad about themselves and needs everyone to share their misery. You will never make your way through life without coming across this person, so, again, it is never too early to learn to tackle them.
When you watch a group of sweet, kind young children faced with a potential four-year-old bully, you can see them already wondering whether to ignore him/her or to tell them to “shut your big mouth because you are horrible”.
Indeed, some strong friendships are based purely on a mutual dislike for someone who is a nasty piece of work. I think this is both healthy and therapeutic.
Friendships should never be taken for granted, and for them to thrive rules must be followed. These include never being hurtful (unless your bum really does look unavoidably massive in those leggings); never saying “I told you so” even when you knew her last partner was an idiot; and never breaking a confidence.
I don’t believe in toxic friends since anyone who makes your life miserable isn’t a friend.
If you are hanging around with people who undermine, manipulate and let you down, cut those losers loose. If they want friends, they need to abide by the rules.
You see it in playgrounds and classrooms, those who behave like horrors, and then blame everyone else for being unpopular. Some of these children learn quickly to behave differently, but some grow up and never do.
Learning to handle these people is one the greatest lessons to conquer.