Should I kiss my boyfriend at school?

Out: Theory and Practice of Social Pedagogy (TPS) 1996, issue 4

The importance of child friendship and child strife for identity development

Margarete Blank-Mathieu


Even as babies, children enjoy making contact with children. One can observe that babies react to the face of a child above the cradle with joyful surprise, with cheering and laughing, with kicking and moving their hands. Then when you start to run, whenever a child is around, try to run after them. Contact is often made through apparent rejection, i.e. boxing, hitting and poking. But with these gestures the child wants to signal to the other child: Come play with me!

They are often chance encounters, later playing side by side in the sandpit with spontaneous proofs of friendship, which can consist in a child going up to a stranger and hugging and kissing it, but also in taking a toy out of the hand of another child or it push away. But always, even in these early childhood stages, we notice that the encounter between a child and a child is something special, means something fundamentally different for the child than contact with adults.

The first real friendships with children are formed from the age of three, usually when they start kindergarten. Now the children are specifically looking for playmates. They can make themselves understood by language and ask children who happen to be near them whether they are playing. When children meet and play with each other more often, sympathies develop that turn into friendship. The child then no longer wants to go to kindergarten if the boyfriend or girlfriend is not there. Many children do not start playing until certain children show up. Then they discuss, act and agree on what to play.

But you only exchange secrets with your boyfriend or girlfriend. There is whispering, giggling and the boyfriend or girlfriend proudly presented to the others. With a girlfriend you feel much more important, bigger and stronger. Having a friend is important for every child's self-esteem. You need a boyfriend in very different situations:

  • You can confide in him that you are afraid and then cope better with fearful situations (e.g. when you walk past the gate, behind which a large dog is barking, together).
  • You can try out your own abilities and become more self-confident through positive reinforcement in the form of praise or recognition. But you also learn to better accept your own weaknesses.
  • Two people are stronger. Attacks against the friend are considered a personal insult and are fended off together.
  • If you are disappointed or sad, you feel better understood by your girlfriend of the same age than by your own mother.
  • Doing a task together is more fun, and difficulties can also be dealt with much better together.
  • It is much easier to establish contact with new children or in unfamiliar surroundings if you are accompanied by your girlfriend.
  • You can stay home alone without adults when your friend is with you.
  • A friend is more important than your own siblings. He is not seen as a rival as often as this one.
  • Empathy, sympathy, sympathy are experiences that can be made more easily with a boyfriend than in a children's group.
  • For the sake of a friend, it is also easier to do without something.
  • In a group, you can assert yourself better together, but you also feel more comfortable when you have an ally there.
  • Rules and regulations can be more easily recognized together, but can also be circumvented once.
  • The dependence on adults is not felt so strongly when the girlfriend supports her own wishes.
  • Together it is easier to accept compromises, to represent ideas and opinions, to set aside one's own opinion.
  • And last but not least, you can research better together, find out something, experiment, try it out and deepen your own knowledge in the process.

Although there are childhood friendships from kindergarten that last a lifetime, these are rather the exceptions. Child friendships are fragile. Friends often change daily, and that's not uncommon for friendships at this age. Children discover new things every day and always have new preferences.

In addition to the experiences of friendship, there are also experiences of quarrels, exclusion, and disappointment. And these experiences are also important for the children in order to stabilize their own personality. That's not always easy. Jealousy among children triggers smaller and larger crises. Suddenly the child no longer wants to go to kindergarten or withdraws to a corner there and can hardly be persuaded to play along.

It gets really bad when your friend moves away or you go to another kindergarten yourself. Schooling your girlfriend can also be an incision that is difficult to get over. In the peer group, when school is approaching, the question is repeatedly asked who will be in the same class with whom. Separating friends sometimes makes sense from an adult point of view, but it can trigger feelings of loss and fear of failure in children.

Even if it seems that child friendships are not as important as they change frequently, this is a fallacy. Children need to be able to decide for themselves how long they want to maintain a friendship. Only they themselves can know how long the friendship is important to them. Adults should take child friendships as seriously as they take their own relationships with friends. You should help the children grieve when a friendship breaks, help the children make new friends, support children when they are plagued by jealousy or envy. In order to be able to form stable bonds in later life, children must experience that it is worth sacrificing something for a friend, that it is worthwhile to maintain the friendship even through difficulties, to reconcile one another, to come to terms with one another.

We ourselves are role models. How do we treat each other? How do we shape our friendship relationships, how much are our friends worth to us, and how do we maintain difficult relationships?

Just as we show our affection for our children and friends, children also imitate this in their childhood friendships. They give each other small gifts, they visit each other, they want to be together as often as possible, they share their joys and sorrows and are often very careful with one another.

We get angry when children are constantly bickering. There are no siblings who don't quarrel. Arguments are also the order of the day among friends. And children fight their disputes loudly and often with hands and feet. Is it really necessary for children to quarrel so often, is that also a childhood friendship that we should support?

Children's disputes, including those with one's own boyfriend and girlfriend, can develop valuable experiences:

  • One thing can be viewed from different angles.
  • other children feel differently, react differently, have to be treated differently in order to play with them.
  • Rules of the game must be observed.
  • Your own opinion can also be asserted against resistance.
  • Your own abilities can be tried out, and your own role must be found and defended within the group.
  • You can experience yourself as the cause of arguments.
  • One can experience failures and deal with fears.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to argue about solutions that are adapted to the situation.
  • You also have to learn to lose.

This and much more can be learned from arguing properly. But arguing has to be learned first. It is not easy to let yourself be attacked and then listen to the other person's opinion. Pulling back into a corner offended is easier than dealing with a different point of view. If the friend even turns to another child and declares you stupid, how should you react correctly?

For educators, the question arises again and again as to when they should or even have to get involved in a children's dispute. In any case, they have to keep an eye on quarreling children. Can the attacked child defend themselves? Will they find someone in the children's group to stand by them? Can the children argue, find their own rules, enforce their opinion? Do disputes even turn into fights?

Children learn how to argue properly only by arguing. Therefore, educators should intervene as rarely as possible. If they have to do that, however, the reason for the dispute, the course of the dispute and the proposed solutions are discussed again with the children. This can happen in a chair group discussion, in one-on-one discussions with the children concerned or using a story or a picture book as an example.

Arguing should never be equated with "being angry". When a dispute arises, a conflict must be resolved. Learning to solve conflicts is an important goal of our education in kindergarten. To resolve conflicts in such a way that in the end there is no winner and no loser, but everyone can live with a compromise, the children have to learn through their own experience.

In this way, as educators, we will help the children to find friends, to maintain friendships and to make new friends. If there are conflicts, we let the children - as far as they are able - resolve them themselves.

Which child has no boyfriend or girlfriend, becomes an outsider in the group? This is a question that we need to give room to our observations in the free spins phase. We cannot be a substitute for child friendships, but we can show children our care, strengthen their self-confidence, assign them tasks for the group that allows them to participate in the group process, hang up their pictures, praise them in front of the group. This makes it easier for them to find friends and become more popular as playmates.

And we ourselves have to prove ourselves as real friends. We are the model on which children learn how to deal with friends, with people they love, how to deal properly with the opponent in the event of a dispute, how to agree rules and find compromises.

Child friendships are preliminary stages for the later ability to bond. Every friendship, even if it lasts for a few hours, has its own value. When a child friendship is broken by the children themselves, this is the sign that it has served its "purpose". A lot of new things are still waiting for the child, they have a whole life ahead of them in order to be able to have new experiences again and again, including experiences with a wide variety of people.

When we consider this, every child friendship is important to us. In order to develop one's own self-confidence, to try out one's own strength, but also to find and maintain a place within the community, child friendships, but also child disputes, are essential.