Navigating the dynamics and nuances of friendship at any age can be challenging but especially for our younger students and teenagers. They don’t have the life experience to spot a fake friend and are vulnerable to the hurtful results.
I’m sure your children have come home complaining about what their friends or other students have done during the day and most of the time it is just children being children or teens finding their own way in life. However, if your child is complaining about a particular friend over and over then it may be time to have the talk with them about how to spot a fake friend.
The conclusion of the talk is not so your child turns up at school and accuses someone of being a fake friend, but to quietly make them aware not to expect true friendship qualities from someone who could be a fake friend.
We’ve all heard stories (and the odd song) about someone growing up and looking back on their youth only to realise they were actually a bully at school. Just like those playground bullies, most fake friends aren’t aware that they are being a fake friend. It could be that they have never had true friendship role-modelled for them or are going through a stage where they are more focussed on themselves.
If you or your child discover that a friend’s hurtful actions could mean they are a fake friend then the best way forward is to not expect true friendship from that person and slowly try and spend more time with true friends.
No one is perfect and we are all born selfish so the real take home from this blog is to make sure you aren’t being a fake friend to others.
In a Principal’s Digest article, Sherri Gordon wrote, “How to Spot a Fake Friend” and listed these characteristics.
Fake friends are selfish.
Typically, a fake friend will call or spend time with your child only when they want something. If this becomes a pattern of behaviour then be sure your child is aware that this is happening. Likewise, ensure your child doesn’t become friends with someone for what they can get out of them.
Fake friends thrive on gossip and drama.
Stress to your children that if someone enjoys gossiping about others, then they may be gossiping behind your child’s back as well. Children should avoid friendships with people who thrive on gossip. Make your child aware of the difference between telling you about their day and gossiping about others.
Fake friends require you to pretend.
The hallmark of a healthy friendship is that you can be yourself. If your child has to talk or dress differently in order to fit in, then those people are not true friends. They are probably part of a clique instead of a group of friends. Fake friends also resort to negative peer pressure, which often leads to bullying, ostracising and other forms of relational aggression. This is particularly challenging for our teenagers but realising it is a hallmark of a fake friend will reduce the pain they feel if ostracised.
Fake friends lie.
Often fake friends do not feel good about who they are so they lie about their accomplishments, their grades, their clothes, their possessions – anything to make themselves look better. And if they lie about themselves, they will lie about your child too. Be sure your child knows that if they catch a friend in multiple lies, it’s probably not a healthy friendship. Likewise, ensure your child knows the value of being truthful to others.
Fake friends are critical.
Real friends are supportive and encouraging, but fake friends relentlessly criticise. Girls in particular can be critical about weight and looks. This type of criticism is particularly dangerous because it can lead to eating disorders or self-harming behaviour. Also, ensure your child knows how destructive criticism can be for their friends so they don’t fall into the trap of doing it themselves.
Fake friends are not happy when you succeed.
If your children’s friends always have something unpleasant to say when they succeed, then they are not real friends. Real friends celebrate one another’s success.
At Glasshouse Christian College, our Pastors hold friendship groups and we run projects across the year levels talking about healthy relationships. A few years ago Abbey and Ruby recorded this lovely video about ‘friendship fires’ which also describes troubles that we can have with real friends.
The most important thing for your child to know is that if they are a good friend to others, then they are much more likely to have good friends for themselves. Use this opportunity to talk to them about friendships, how to spot a fake friend and how to be a good friend to others.
Mike Curtis, Principal