Teaching Children to Be Good Friends

blueberry flowers and nasturtiums

When I went to pick up my first-grader at school today he was hiding as usual with his two best buddies near the boys' toilets.    After I extracted my son from his (very stinky) hiding spot, I noticed that a new little boy from Pakistan was sitting all by himself, with no one to play with.  

Expecting his usual, sweet-natured compliance, I asked my son to go over to Abdullah and ask him to play.  To my shock, the response was, "No, I don't want to play with him.  He's stinky.  He doesn't play any good games, only boring ones like chasey."  Then he laughed with his friends, who repeated what he said.

I was appalled.  I couldn't believe my kind, loving, generous child could say such a thing.  Or be so thoughtlessly cruel, even if he was just being silly and showing off.  Fortunately, none of this was said within earshot of Abdullah.

Needless to say, I have talked to my son about how hard it is to be a new person and not have many friends.  And that I expect him to be kind and let Abdullah join in, in future.  I will also be speaking to their teacher tomorrow to see if the boys can do some activities together in class.  Hopefully I will have the opportunity to introduce myself to Abdullah's parents in the near future.
Have you ever dealt with an issue like this?  What did you do?  How do we teach young children to be sensitive to the needs of others?

Postscript: When I arrived at school yesterday my son ran over to say that he played chasey with Abdullah all through lunchtime and they're friends now.  I'll continue to keep an eye on this situation. 

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