My Friend Wants Me to Bully Others. What Do You Think I Should Do?

Throughout February 2012, we’ll be working on the concept of “loyalty.”

All our discussions and activities will aim to help our students understand how to be faithful, steadfast and true to someone or something. We will also help them understand that loyalty doesn’t demand silence when we feel that somebody or something is in the wrong.

Powerful Words is the name of our character development curriculum here at Urban Martial Arts. It’s designed by one of the nation’s leading childhood development experts, Dr. Robyn Silverman. Every month, we’ll focus on a different Powerful Word, or concept around character development.

In this post, Dr. Robyn answers a question from a parent who’s concerned about her children’s health.

Dear Dr. Robyn,

My children have always been friends with a boy who lives down the street. Lately, they haven’t wanted to spend time with him because he’s mean to the other kids and tries to get my kids to do the same. They’re not sure what to do. I’m having trouble explaining when loyalty is right and when to move on.

— Rita G, Brooklyn, NY

Dear Rita G,

Loyalty builds trust and in turn, builds stronger friendships. However, sometimes loyalty, if misunderstood, can be detrimental to ourselves or others.

Many believe that it means standing by someone’s side and backing them up even when you disagree. However, if a friend is doing something that goes against our values and we still are steadfast in supporting them, we are being disloyal to ourselves. We can’t compromise our own character in the name of friendship.

We need to explain to children that loyalty should:

(1) Make you feel good:
When you make a commitment to a friend and you trust that friend to make good decisions, staying loyal should be easy and comfortable.

(2) Jive with your character:
A good friend never makes you compromise who you are.

(3) Go both ways:
When you are loyal to a friend, that friend should be loyal to you. Friendship is always a two-way street.

When are loyalty and character at odds? Ask yourself:

(1) How do I feel?
When our character is being questioned, we may feel funny in our throat, face, hands, belly, or legs.

(2) Is someone going to get hurt?
Our decisions and actions impact many people. If staying loyal to a friend is hurtful, question whether you’re doing the right thing.

(3) Will I be proud of the choice I made?
When we feel good about the person we see in the mirror, we have made the right choice.

Discuss these tips with your children and arm them with these loyalty questions. How do they respond? Their answers will help them to become more clear about their decision.

In the end, your children may not have to end the friendship, but rather speak clearly, directly, and kindly to the person with
whom they disagree. If they can come to a resolution without compromising their values, they can save their friendship. If no resolution can be identified, it may be time to move on.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Robyn

There’s no better way to drive home the lessons we teach at Urban Martial Arts than by reinforcing them… well, at home!

To give you more ideas for conversation topics, here’s a run-down of what we’ll be discussing this month:

Week 1 Loyalty defined: Responsibility, faithfulness, dependability, and trust
Week 2 Loyal roles: How can I be a loyal friend, child, sibling and citizen?
Week 3 Speaking up vs ratting out: When “loyalty” feels strange
Week 4 Loyal Student: How can I be loyal to my school, my goals, and my classmates?

We’d love to hear how your conversations go with your child so do share with us!

About Dr. Robyn:
Dr. Robyn Silverman, child development specialist, body image/body bullying expert, sought-after speaker and award-winning writer, is known for her no-nonsense yet positive approach to helping young people and their families thrive. Her ground-breaking research at Tufts University on young women is the foundation for her book, “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.”

Photo Credit: Chesi – Fotos CC on stock.xchng