The second virtue in the Starting Point group is friendship – learning to be a genuine friend. Since most children love to play with other children, parents have an ideal opportunity to cultivate this virtue. Friendship has many companion virtues. Caring, empathy, compassion, and loyalty are inherently related to friendship, so it‘s a great chance to add more and more virtues to the child’s repertoire.
Later in life we continue to need friends to share our ups and downs. It may be possible to get by on our own, but what’s the point? However, having friends is less than half of the equation. Being a friend is even more important.
The quality of our relationships can be measured over an extensive range, from weak to very strong. The extent to which friendships are rich and rewarding depends on many factors, attitudes, and behaviours including:
- mutual interests,
- common aims,
- similar understandings,
- shared compassion, sympathy, and empathy,
- willingness to share time, ideas, and feelings,
- staying in touch because each other’s company is enjoyed and valued,
- speaking well of each others ideas, attitudes, and accomplishments,
- trusting one another; expressing feelings and opinions without the fear of being judged or criticized;
- being frank and honest, especially in situations where it may be difficult to point out the perceived faults of the other,
- willing to reveal sensitive information in anticipation of emotional support,
- taking the friend’s criticisms as seriously as their expressions of admiration or praise,
- reciprocal “give and take”, possibly but not necessarily always equal,
- desiring what is best for the other and helping to make it happen; these benevolent impulses appear and grow sooner or later.
As the child matures the number of qualities increases. They become more intertwined. The dependence on words and communication skills becomes more and more important to explain differentiations, let alone the broader range of feelings. Greenspan’s inclusion of communications skills as an important quality makes sense.
Expanding and Increasing Interests
Common interests are crucial to developing lasting friendships. Children should be encouraged to recognize and expand their Interests. The broader and more numerous their interests become, the greater the potential for having many friends, let alone opening up more opportunities in the future.
Character and virtues development starts out small. It continues to grow and flourish as the child mature to include more elements and at a more profound level.