How do we teach our kids to wise about friendships without being skeptical? How do we teach them to be generous without being a sucker? I recently tackled these questions with my oldest daughter.
Lexi attends a visual and performing arts high school part time. Just before lunch each day, she drives herself in to school.
There are a couple girls she hangs out with when she first arrives because the rest of the students are still eating lunch. One day, one of the girls called Lexi and said she was “starving”. She asked if Lexi would stop by McDonald’s on her way in to grab her a bite to eat. Lexi, being sympathetic to her plight, could not refuse the starving, sad voice on the other end of the phone. But then, as soon as Lexi agreed to get her food, the “starving” girl cranked up the manipulation.
“Great! Get me a 10 piece McNugget, a large fry and a Cafe Mocha. I’ll pay you back.”
Lexi went through the drive-thru and used her debit card. Unbeknownst to her it caused her account to become overdrawn. Immediately, I received a notification (her account is connected to mine), and needless to say, this mom was not a happy camper.
When Lexi got home from school that day, we had a nice chat.
She’s at an age where she should be wise and know when to trust and when to be leery. But it’s a delicate balancing act, because she also needs to be generous. I want all of my kids to have giving hearts, but I don’t want them to get ripped off.
When she got home, I sat her down for the McDonald’s talk. I didn’t want her to feel stupid or shameful, so I started with some questions.
“Lexi, did it occur to you that this girl was already at school with a bunch of other kids who had food? There was plenty of food available to her, but she hadn’t asked anyone there for something to help solve her hunger crisis?”
I could see from the expression on her face that this thought had not occurred to her.
“Did you have the slightest ‘check’ when her food order was almost $12? She certainly wasn’t ordering off the dollar menu. I’m thinking if she was THAT hungry a dollar menu item would have been just fine.”
This also had not occurred to her.
Then, of course, we had to have the conversation about always checking your bank balance and not overdrawing the account. We have since put a system in place to prevent that from ever happening again.
Her responses were all very innocent. It had never occurred to her that this girl’s goal was to take advantage of her. To this day, the girl has never paid her back and now avoids Lexi like the plague.
Lexi just hadn’t thought to question her “friend’s” motives. She didn’t for one second entertain the possibility that this girl wouldn’t pay her back.
This was a tough one. First I had to check my own emotions about the situation. I was angry that this girl had taken advantage of my daughter, but I was even more concerned that Lexi had no clue she had been taken advantage of.
I sent Lexi back to school armed with ammo to confront the situation.
I role played with her different ways to approach this girl and ask for repayment, which was extremely difficult for Lexi, who typically runs screaming from confrontation. That in itself was a growth opportunity for her.
The obvious take away for Lexi from this situation was to be careful who she calls a friend (and trusts), but it also opened an important conversation about friendship in general. Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about what it takes to be a friend.