Watch out for “shoulds”
Episode 5 – Edith, Age 8: Friend doesn’t do what I want
Think About It Questions
- What is the “danger of shoulds”? How can “shoulds” hurt a friendship?
- Can you think of a time when a friend did something you didn’t like, but you were able to accept it and move on? Why is that a useful thing to be able to do?
- Have you ever had a friend get mad at you because you did something they didn’t like? How did you and your friend handle it?
- Sometimes it’s important just to accept it when a friend doesn’t do what we want, and sometimes it’s important to talk to the friend about what happened and explain what you want from now on and why it matters to you. How can you tell when to accept and when to speak up?
Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Let’s hear today’s question:
Hi, my name is Edith, and I'm 8 years old. my friend grabbed this like, it was this little spinny thing that I wanted, and I said, “Can I have it after you?” He was like yeah, so I said okay and then this girl, who’s really really like not nice, and so she went up and after we were done spinning, then he gave it to the girl instead of me. How do I fix this problem?
Hi, Edith. Thanks for sending in your question. If I understand it correctly, you’re mad at your friend because you TOLD him you wanted the spinny thing when he was done, but instead he gave it to another kid who you don’t even like.
Maybe you’re thinking, “A real friend, a loyal friend should do what I want, not what someone else wants.” I can understand that. We all want our friends to be on our side in life.
I think, though. that we need to be careful about the danger of SHOULDS,
especially when it comes to friends.
If you think to yourself, “My friend SHOULD do what I want!” you’re boxing yourself in
and telling yourself, “Things have to be a certain way!” But what happens when your friend doesn’t do exactly what you want? Does that mean you’re not friends anymore?
Yikes! I hope not.
You can soften your shoulds in your mind by turning them into “I’d prefer.” “I’d prefer” means you’d like it better if. So “I’d prefer if my friend gave me the spinny thing next” means “You’d like it better if he gave it to you–but you can absolutely handle it if things don’t go exactly how you like them best.
Maybe you got a turn with the spinny thing a little later, after the other kid, or maybe you didn’t get a turn at all and you just went to lunch and went on and had a good day.
When you turn shoulds into “I’d prefer” in your mind, you give yourself room to accept whatever is happening, even if it’s not perfect, and just move on.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and look on the podcast page to see how to submit your question.