Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a child and family psychologist, wrote an article for U.S. News & World Report recently in which she suggests that schools should ban children from having best friends. She noted that some American and European schools already forbid kids from having “besties.” What’s the worst thing about best friends, you ask? She cautions, “There is something dreadfully exclusionary” about the whole notion of “best friend.” Ah.
Though the good doctor admits some will scoff at her concern, she says she is focused on the “bigger picture,” the pain of rejection associated with having such an exalted pal. She wrote: “I am a huge fan of social inclusion. The phrase ‘best friend’ is inherently exclusionary. Among children and even teens, best friends shift rapidly. These shifts lead to emotional distress and would be significantly less likely if our kids spoke of close or even good friends rather than best friends.” She added, “And, if kids have best friends, does that also imply that they have ‘worst friends?’” I’m guessing Dr. Greenberg’s I.Q. is roughly equivalent to her age. “You’re my closie!” and “You’re my goodie!” just wouldn’t have the same cashet in kid’s lexicon.
Dr. Babs continued: “A focus on having best friends certainly indicates there’s an unspoken ranking system; and where there is a ranking system, there are problems. I see kids who are never labeled best friends, and sadly, they sit alone at lunch tables and often in their homes while others are with their best friends. My hope is that if we encourage our kids to broaden their social circles, they will be more inclusive and less judgmental. The word ‘best’ encourages judgment and promotes exclusion.”
She goes on to say that she is not an advocate of “encouraging kids to have huge groups of friends,” and that she’d rather see “children having a smaller group of close friends.” Close friends or good friends?
Magnanimously, the inclusive shrink says parents should not forbid their kids from “having contact” with an avowed best friend. Yet, she also doesn’t believe parents should be concerned if their child’s school prohibits its students from having best friends. (How the hell would a school enforce that?).
In summation, Dr. Greenberg urges parents to “consider making a bit of a shift to your vocabulary and talk to your children about the importance of having close friends. Put less emphasis on popularity and having best friends.” It seems as if she’d like to tell each of us exactly how many friends our kids should have, while also specifically characterizing the “proper” nature of those friendships. I’m not sure that’s all that open-minded and inclusive.
It is ironic that U.S. News & World Report chose to publish this article, given that it is famous for its “Best Rankings” lists, which judge and rank everything from hotels to colleges to…doctors of psychology.
If using the term “best” is heartlessly exclusionary- and who could argue with a credentialed psychologist- the government should force big box retailer Best Buy to rebrand itself as “Good Buy.”
“Give it a good shot” should replace “give it your best shot.”
Personally, I am a huge fan of judgment and exclusion. Without these concepts, there is nothing but chaos and sloth, ennui and existentialism. I don’t want to be
best close friends with a terrorist, or have my
kids be “good” friends with drug-addled anarchists. I’m simply not going to be
inclusive of those who, though they are utterly ignorant of history- and current events- loudly and
virulently trash those with whom they “disagree.”