Schools may ban kids from having best friends — and it's not the worst idea

Young students may soon have to say goodbye to their best friend, and they have Prince George to blame.

The concept was introduced when the royal tot first started school a few years ago. Ben Thomas, headmaster of St. Thomas’s Day School, said at the time, “I would certainly endorse a policy which says we should have lots of good friends, not a best friend,” according to the Telegraph. We can’t help but wonder … does this mean George doesn’t have someone he can call a best friend? Boy, would he be missing out.

Taking the focus off being BFFs may encourage kids to be more inclusive. (Photo: Getty Images)
Taking the focus off being BFFs may encourage kids to be more inclusive. (Photo: Getty Images)

In the last few months, the trend has moved from Europe to America, according to Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in family and relationship issues. Why would schools do such a thing? “They want to foster inclusivity,” Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “And they want their schools to be characterized as having children that don’t exclude other ones. So what they did was take an extreme stance, which was to ban the whole concept of best friends in the hope that children would then form a group of friends.”

Of course, that’s a lot to ask. “The backlash is that ‘It’s just natural for children to have best friends. How can you take away kids’ best friends?’” Greenberg, who sparked controversy when she wrote an article about the concept for U.S. News & World Report in January, wants to make sure the heart of the message is heard. “I think the real message is being lost here,” she points out, “and the real message is that we want children to be more inclusive and to think about who else they can invite to play with them, to join in with them.”

So does that mean no more best friend heart necklaces? Probably not. “The whole idea of banning best friends completely is unlikely to ever happen,” Greenberg states. “I don’t think that will work. Research shows that people do better with a small group of close friends, rather than a large group of acquaintances.”

She offered an alternative. “I think the more realistic message would be to be more inclusive rather than to be best friends. The more palatable and realistic way to go about it is to include rather than ban.”

Greenberg uses lunchtime as an example of the perfect opportunity to implement an inclusivity rule. Instead of not allowing kids to call someone their best friend (because, let’s be realistic), she suggests schools encourage students to look around the room for someone who is alone and invite the person to join them and their BFF. “Who else can you invite?” she says. “Look around. The cultural norm should start to move toward people looking around and seeing who wants to join. The motto should be #include, #invite, rather than #ban.”

When I asked multiple friends who work in schools throughout New York City about the #BestFriendBan, none of them had heard of the concept, and they certainly don’t support it. “That’s ridiculous,” one said, while a charter school network administrator called it “crazy.”

The trend is picking up, though. Probably because we’ll do anything the royals do. “That’s what we encourage at camp,” Jay Jacobs, who operates Timber Lake Camp, told CBS. “I think that there are pitfalls in just having one friend. Remember, as you grow up, interests change, children go in different directions.”

The jury’s still out on how this rule is being implemented and whether kids would get in trouble if they accidentally promise “best friendship” in exchange for an Oreo. Greenberg said, “I would certainly hope that they don’t use the punishment model if they are trying to teach kindness.”

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