Should schools prevent kids from having best friends? Short answer: no. Longer answer: absolutely not.
Best-friend-bans have been a hot topic ever since we learned that Prince William and Kate are sending their oldest son to a school that discourages kids from forming best friendships. But this isn't just a trend among posh British tykes, writes Karol Marcowicz in the New York Post:
Our schools began to ban best friends, too. Most parents know that schools have been doing this informally for some time, but psychologist Barbara Greenberg caused a stir with a recent piece in US News & World Report, noting that she sees a trend of American schools implementing an actual ban.
Greenberg approves of the move because she is concerned by what she calls the "emotional distress" of a kid losing the status of best friend or the "inherently exclusionary" nature of best-friendship itself. Greenberg writes that "child after child comes to my therapy office distressed when their best friend has now given someone else this coveted title."
"Distress" is distressing. But it isn't crippling. Let Grow, the new non-profit I run, just held a contest asking high school students to write essays about thinking for themselves and hundreds of them wrote about the time a best friend turned on them—and how this made them gradually realize that their former best friend was a jerk, and wrong to put them down.
It was amazing to see how common this entire cycle was, in grammar school, middle school, and high school. Many of the essays are heart-wrenching. The kids went through deep loss. Some were distraught. They believed it when their besties told them they were ugly, or fat, or stupid. But eventually, they stopped believing it. And then they were grateful for the ordeal, because they came away with more self-confidence.
These letters surprised me. But it seems like making and losing best friends is a formative experience for young people. What a strange and difficult journey childhood is for so many. No one's saying we should make it more difficult—just that the effort to protect children from all emotional pain stems from a misguided belief that they can't handle any of life's slings and arrows. If we ban best friends, I worry we will only succeed at depriving our kids of the ability to overcome more serious obstacles later in life.