"You're not my friend."
It's one of the most common phrases children will say, starting as early as 2 and continuing on through Elementary school. When I first heard this phrase, it was easy to say, "We're all friends in school" . What I learned through experience was that it wasn't necessarily the friendship I was seeking from the children, but rather the respect for each other that needed to start being practiced.
When I find myself hearing this phrase, I make my presence known to them, but don't interfere right away. At Tumbleweed, we are firm believers in letting the children have as many opportunities to be independent thinkers and actors of their own choices. More times than not, a child is stating this phrase as a way to express a need of theirs. Touch, proximity, and open relationships all combined together are keystones to preschool relationships.
What lead up to this situation?
Are all parties feeling heard?
How can we help them say what is true?
John Meyer's book Kids Talking: Learning Relationships and Culture with Children, stated that "children relate friendship to practical acts like playing together, sharing a toy, or giving something to another. The ability to reciprocate and meet the other's expectations was crucial for building relationships." Once a situation is assessed and the children are feeling heard, we are able to move onto the stage of finding words that make us feel good and that we would want someone to say to us if the roles were reversed. It's in those crucial moments that we are able as educators to give them the tools and words to assist them in expressing their feelings and emotions in a productive way that benefits all parties. After that, we send them off to grow and learn from their actions and flourish into the wonderful human beings we know they are starting to become.