[I]ncreasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?
Most children naturally seek close friends. In a survey of nearly 3,000 Americans ages 8 to 24 conducted last year by Harris Interactive, 94 percent said they had at least one close friend. But the classic best-friend bond — the two special pals who share secrets and exploits, who gravitate to each other on the playground and who head out the door together every day after school — signals potential trouble for school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity, in part because of concerns about cliques and bullying.
“I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults — teachers and counselors — we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to talk to kids and work with them to get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.”
“Parents sometimes say Johnny needs that one special friend,” she continued. “We say he doesn’t need a best friend.”
Seriously? This is ridiculous. Name the adult who does not have or at least does not crave that "best friend." Yeah, there are issues that sometimes arise with the idea of best friends, but going against that natural instinct is insane. Just look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs--the third level is love and belonging. Most people find that love and belonging is an intimate thing--not something you find in the large group setting.
I've been part of close-knit, large groups before. And within those groups you will find bonds that exist that are stronger between individuals than those that exist with the group in general.
And then what about gangs? There is a group setting in which members will often talk about being a part because of the sense of "belonging" they have found. Is that really what we want to encourage?
And what about all the kids who are helped because they do have that one person they feel who really cares about them--especially in a society of divorce where children are frequently left feeling unwanted, in the way, or otherwise abandoned? Are we now fighting the essential human instinct to find that one person who truly understands us, cares about us?
Can kids take it too far? Sure. I also know a lot of adults who take their intimate relationships too far as well. But that then leaves the range of healthy relationship. Shouldn't they just be arguing that we teach kids what a healthy relationship should look and feel and act like? Rather than fighting against the entire system of "my best friend"?