Children’s Bill Of Rights – Right to Associate With Others of His Choosing

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The following is part of a series of articles on the rights and responsibilities of children and of families.  On our site, we’ve published a Children’s Bill Of Rights, with all of the sections in the bill.  You can take a look at Children’s Bill of Rights.

(To read additional articles about Children’s Rights and the specific rights recommended in the Children’s Bill of Rights, look through this blog, and at Homeschool Hows & Whys.)


Right to Associate

Every child has the right to have those friends and acquaintances that they wish to have, with the exception (to be used sparingly) of people the parents consider a danger to the well-being of the child.   Each child has the right to pursue friendships and acquaintances as they wish, to spend time with friends, and to enjoy them.   Each child has the right to expect that his family and friends will not degrade or attack his choice of friends, so long as the relationship or friendship is not dangerous to the child.

The ability to wisely select one’s friends is not consistently found among human beings.  Some of us do a better job at this than others.  Some people just have a knack for finding friends who are bright and endearing and caring, with whom they share enough interests to build a friendship that can last.

Other people can’t find the right friends to save their lives.  And sometimes that’s exactly what a good friend does for you. 

There’s hardly a person alive who would not consider friendship very important, and rightly so.  Good friends can make life far more bearable than it might otherwise be. 

Children, by definition, do not have the experience with other people that adults have.  There are always going to be exceptions to this, of course.  There will be the adult who has lived a rather isolated life, and who is perhaps deeply uncomfortable with other people.  The greatest of all comic playwrights, Moliere, wrote what is thought to be the greatest of comedies about just such a man, The Misanthrope.  It is about a man who refuses to compromise and say the sorts of things that give others pleasure or comfort.  He insists on the truth in all dealings, and that insistence leads him finally to run away from all of the human race. 

If this seems extreme to you, I believe it to be far more common a reality today than in Moliere’s time, 300 years ago.  Modern cities tend to naturally isolate us and remind us that we are, though surrounded, apart.  The dissolution of the family structure has today sent parents and their newly-grown children hurtling to opposite ends of the world, where generations of families not long ago grew old together in a single home.  Times have changed and, with them, so have relationships.  I believe there are far more people who are painfully aware of their status as “alone” today than ever before.

This makes the ability to create good and rewarding friendships all the more imperative.

That said, the world today does not place the premium on honor and right behavior that it once did.  It does not place the weight on “all for one and one for all” that it did in more noble times.  Instead, we seem to live in a world that often places all of its emphasis on “me first” – and that isn’t as good basis for friendship.

Some children have a gift for social behavior, and form friendships very easily.  This does not mean that they are sufficiently discriminating.  And it also does not mean that they are not.

Some children are born with sufficiently keen insight that they tend to do a find job in selecting others to trust.  Which leads me to ask you, mom and dad, the following important question.

Do you trust your child?

This is not asked lightly in this regard.  Poor choices in “friends” may lead a child down some very grim and dark roads, as I know most parents are all-too aware.  As it is a parent’s first job to keep their children safe, Good choices may help form a sort of team that helps to safely and happily lift the child through some normally difficult, formative years.  Some friendships last a lifetime, and these can start very young.

The implementing of this right must be carefully supported indeed.  Mom and dad have the final right to pull the plug on any “friendship” that they see as unwholesome or potentially injurious to Junior.  But such a right absolutely must be used with real judgment, and as sparingly as is possible.  Used to often and you strip a child of his right to social interplay.  You make a hermit of him.  He will never learn to play in the sandbox with others.  He becomes Moliere’s title character, and unhappily walks off alone into a desert symbolic of life.

And let’s be clear, there’s very little middle ground to the fair and supportive use of this right.  If a friend is NOT a disaster in the making, then you must get out of the way, or actively get in there and support your child’s choice of friends.  If your child’s friend is basically a good person in the important points, then you can’t say nasty things about him to Junior.  You can’t negate or minimize your children’s friends, not to your child or to anyone else.  Because the friend of my friend is also my friend.  The friend of your child is your friend, if they are a true friend.  They are helping you watch out for the well-being of your child.

Some parents attempt to “engineer” their children’s social lives.  They set up organized play sessions, and choose only the right families or schools to associate their child with.  That’s nice and I understand what drives such choices, but later on life isn’t going to be so picky.  There are lots of good people out there.  There are also lots of not so good people.  I am NOT a fan of “exposing a child to the ugly side”, in order to harden him up.  I think that’s complete nonsense.  A parent should protect his child.  That said, protect for the long game, the full life.  Assume that your child will be eventually exposed to all kinds of people.  Junior is going to need to develop a keen inner sense of who can be trusted, and who is worth his time, affection and friendship.  And that’s an inner voice we all wish spoke just a little bit louder and clearer.

Anyway, this is a child’s right.  He has the right to select his friends.  You, as a parent, have the right to pull the plug, but ONLY when the relationship is pretty clearly destructive,  or has great potential to become so.  If you choose not to pull the plug, then you really must decide at the same time to be supportive about that friendship and friend. 

When it comes to friendship, it’s in for a penny, in for a pound.  That’s true in your own relationships with friends, and in your support of your children and their relationships.

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