PARENTS

Why Would Teachers Want To Ban Best Friends In Schools?

19/03/2012 18:35 | Updated 22 May 2015
Why would teachers want to ban best friends in schools? Getty

I still remember my best friend from primary school with fondness some 30 years on. We lived in each others' pockets, we shared secrets, we giggled, we talked about what sort of pony we'd get in the totally implausible event our parents would let us have one.

We nattered endlessly about things which now seem so mundane but which our worlds centred on and shared our far less mundane dreams - mostly involving marrying Simon Le Bon or replacing Cheryl and whatever the other one was called in Bucks Fizz.

It was surely part of growing up to build this bond, yet if some schools have their way, the current generation of children could miss out on such experiences because their teachers want to ban pupils from having best friends at all. Yes really.

'What on earth are they thinking?' you might well ask. Well, the idea is that children could get hurt if they build intense one-on-one friendships and then fall out. By preventing such relationships in the first place – by encouraging play only with a wider group - they will be protected from the pain.

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Whatever next? Suggesting grown-ups don't get married as, after all, this could end in divorce and that's not much fun?

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A well-worn phrase comes to mind – it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Surely it's natural and beneficial to seek close friendships? My six-year-old son's relationship with his best buddy has given him a confidence and security in school which I would never have believed before he started reception.

Just one example: with his closest friend at his side, he's had the self-assurance to join in with the playground football gang's daily kick-abouts. I'm convinced he would not otherwise have done so - he's certainly not the next Beckham and used to shy away from big groups of kids being relatively boisterous. Now he continues to join in even when his main buddy is off sick and has become quite matey with the football boys. So instead of his best friendship meaning he has fewer friends, he's actually made more.

Of course there's always the chance that him and his 'besty' could move on from each other, but the additional confidence he's built along the way has helped him relate to other children better so he'd be okay. There might be difficult days initially but even then, at the back of my mind I'd know my son would be learning from the experience.

Which is the point - friendships evolve and break up in primary playgrounds. They always have - and children gain valuable lessons from this. Sometimes it's hard but heck life is and what's the alternative? To emotionally molly-coddle them through childhood so that when they break up with that first boyfriend or girlfriend in their teens, they'll be even more upset and unable to handle it?

A question posed by a friend of mine I asked for views on this, Lorenza, who's a mum of two and school governor, is just how is this 'rule' going to be enforced at play times?

Will the teacher on duty go round banning the mere mention of the words 'best friend' and asking any two children who've been together for more than, say, 10 minutes to move on? 'You over there - "Joshua and Jonathan, break it up, you're contravening the no best friends rule."

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Utterly ridiculous, not least because teachers have got quite enough on their plates without having to take this impossible task on too.

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I've tried to check whether I'm being harsh or idealistic - I haven't yet been on the receiving end of my son coming home distraught because him and his beloved friend have fallen out. Yet parenting writer, Jo Wiltshire, has and she still finds the idea absurd.

"Speaking as a parent whose eight-year-old has had her fair share of friendship traumas, I know I'd give my right arm to protect her from the hurt these can cause," she said. "But when my head rules my heart (mostly!) I know that this is all part of life, and she must learn to fight her own battles and deal with her own relationships.

"Primary school is not just for learning your three Rs - it's for learning how to interact with other children, to deal with your own feelings, and to realise your own worth. If teachers (and parents) step in in a heavy-handed manner, they're denying children this crucial lesson."

So here's an idea (I admit it's not exactly radical)...instead of outlawing best friendships, how about instead we ban ridiculous, control-freaky rules in schools and let children just get on with what they've always done. Even if it means the odd fall-out and the occasional tear at bedtime.

Liat Hughes Joshi is author of Raising Children: The Primary Years.

What do you think? Is making and losing friends all part of growing up? Or are teachers right to intervene?

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