286. When Friends Argue

I’ve come to know that when children who are good friends argue, they usually remain good friends. But they often don’t know that. One child may angrily and earnestly say, “I’m never playing with you again.” Another may think the world has come to an end; without that particular friendship, nothing will ever be right again. Another may say the former and think the latter.
But the fact is, friends argue. Even the best of friends. There are two important messages I try to give children when I happen to be nearby and available during arguments. One is that the argument may not herald the end of the friendship, and the other is that the end of the friendship isn’t the end of the world. Children who are in the midst of arguments may not be ready to hear either message, and I don’t push too hard if they’re not ready. But I do try.
Roughly half of the adults reading this who have been married have also been divorced, and roughly all adults have had arguments with good friends. Depending on your own experiences, you may take children’s arguments too seriously or not seriously enough. So may I. It’s sad when good friendships don’t seem to be working, and we don’t want sad things to happen.
Besides, maybe adults have vested interests in children’s friendships. The parents may be friends, too, and it’s very convenient when the children can play together while the adults talk together. It’s also easier to trade child care if the children get along well. If the parents don’t know each other so well, still, it’s easier to get some things done if your child has a good friend over, or is at the
good friend’s home. And last, but not least, it’s hard to see children having trouble without trying to do something about it. We care about them.
But arguments are real, and are sometimes difficult for children to handle alone. I know adults who stay out of it. They believe children have to learn about the hard parts of friendship the hard way, and they think helping a friendship through a rough time isn’t really helping at all. I know other adults who do all they can and more to make sure children’s friendships survive.
I don’t agree with either extreme. We adults know some things about friendship that we can help children learn, and there are other things children have to learn on their own. And which is which varies from child to child and friendship to friendship. So when you see two children who are good friends arguing with each other, I wish you lots of wisdom and good luck.

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