‘You’re Not My Best Friend!’ Social Issues at Daycare

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 At my daughter’s daycare, there is only one phrase whose utterance can end in a full day on a blue nap-time mat. I’m assuming you can guess which phrase that is, since I put it in the title of the post. But honestly, “Shut up” and “That’s stupid” might get you in trouble, but nothing compares to telling someone, “You’re not my best friend!”

This phrase began to run rampant at daycare. Whoever started it, all the kids caught on. It was the go-to response whenever someone wouldn’t share a toy or take their turn. If they wanted to play a different game or made fun of your art project. Whatever the issue, my daughter and her group of four preschool-aged girlfriends would solve it with, “You’re not my best friend!” It got so bad that my daughter started saying it to me.

My daughter’s newest line was normally accompanied by crossed arms and a raised eyebrow. Sometimes she’d even shake her head as she spoke, in a terrible characterization of an angry drama queen. On display was my daughter’s stubborn attitude at its most passionate. For how frequently she used that phrase, it always seemed to pack a punch.

Finally, her daycare provider and I decided to put our feet down. The whole saying was outlawed. Those five little words brought about early bedtimes and took away countless toys. They inspired plenty of timeouts and ended more than a couple trips to the park. Unfortunately, it was the only insult my daughter knew and she was determined to hold onto it.

In pre-school and daycare, everyone is your friend. No matter the child’s attitude and behavior, their peers must be accepting and kind. It’s the only time in your life when you’re simply not allowed to dislike someone. That’s a difficult lesson for toddlers to accept, but I think it’s an important one. It’s the beginning of every relationship with a co-worker or in-law that isn’t particularly rosy. It’s the way we teach kids to adapt and accept diverse opinions and characters. And while we allow children to forget this early lesson over a decade of schooling, I still thinks it’s important.

No, not every child is going to be my daughter’s best friend. But she’s not allowed to use her favor like a bargaining chip. I don’t want her to throw her dislike in someone’s face like a weapon. More than anything, I want her to know that no matter what our personal thoughts are, we must always be kind and polite to our peers. She doesn’t have to enjoy playing with a child who refuses to share or hits, but she can’t scream her disapproval in their face.

We’re still working on the eradication of “You’re not my best friend!” It still pops up at inopportune times. And very seldom, she still gets sent to her room for screaming it in my face when I refuse to let her eat a popsicle an hour before dinner. Hopefully, the first time my daughter has to kiss up to a boss she can’t stand, she’ll appreciate this early lesson in self-control and biting-your-tongue.

(Photo: Thinkstock)