A tricky question: Values or friends?

As with my Saving Babies’ Lives post this one started off as a long detailed post taking a mundane event as a jumping off point.

I then use it as an opportunity to over think it, agonise over drafting and awkwardly try and shoehorn references to The Lucifer Effect, Abu Ghraib and Morecombe Bay and the dangers of tiny transgressions allowing gradual recalibration of the moral compass.

It all stared with my unease at seeing a parent calling their daughter a little sneak for the terrible crime of telling them that a bigger boy pushed over her brother.

All manner of soul searching followed as I wrote about the potentially lethal consequences if this mentality is allowed to play out beyond the playground and into the workplace.

It didn’t work.  It was awkward and clunky.  There is some truth to the idea that there can be dangers to speaking out against bullying, harassment and dishonesty and those attitudes having roots in the law of the playground.  Linking this to a minor act of toddler aggression that took place in the hungry, impatient part of the day felt contrived though.

What it really was about was my unease about the situation and the questions it raised about how I would have handled it and how I would want my children to handle these inevitable situations in childhood and (over thinking it) beyond.

There’s always going to be a tension between doing the right thing and being liked.  Do I want strong, confident children that stand up for themselves and others or do I want them to be liked?

The two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive but often membership of the cool crowd is based on fitting in and excluding those that don’t.  This is why the horrible shows about the complex dynamics of teen relationships give me the fear.

Part of the key to answering that question is whether the friendship of the cool crowd is worth sacrificing (or at least blunting) any firmly held values and beliefs.  If it means that type of sacrifice are they friends worth having?  From the safe distance of being a grown adult of course I can answer no but for a child growing up the answer isn’t so easy.  That’s before we even consider the potential nightmare consequences of expressing an opinion online.

There’s also the added fun for those that do try to stick to their beliefs and values that their temptation becomes a sport.


As a (un)happily unpopular school kid I didn’t have to navigate those shark filled waters.  I had no desire to be part of the group so stopped trying to fit in and waited for all that nonsense to pass.

As a result I have no pearls for wisdom, no sage advice or secrets to offer my children when they start that particular snake pit. I watch my daughter studying tomfoolery from the sidelines and feel sad for her (heavily projected) future and guilt at my part in her wallflower tendencies and lost opportunity to join in and make friends.  Being a paragon of virtue is a fine and noble thing to wish for my children but the price will be for them and looking at the dog piling and sea-lioning that can occur in response  it can be a heavy price to pay.

I will have eggs over easy with toast, please.

All of this is simultaneously miles away and just round the corner.  I write of these high falutin’ ideals and values at a time when I come home to the cubs painting the floor, the walls and each other with a delicious mix of opened tea bags, muesli and milk but soon she will start school and have to be part of a group that isn’t just her brother and have to learn to adapt to the many and ever changing rules and dynamics of school and friendships.

How about you?  Is this something you’ve seen with your children?  How did you handle it?  Is it as seen on TV?  What’s it been like raising a child in a digital age?


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27 Comments Add yours

  1. Kaye says:

    Such a tricky subject and can’t believe the parent reacted that way. :/ Not looking forward to broaching it when my little one is old enough but obviously needs to be discussed. #picknmix

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for commenting. It did seem weird. Usually that type of event sparks one parent marching over to the other to let them know / ask for an apology. It just threw me when they chose to shoot the messenger instead.


  2. pottyadventures says:

    Great post. Away from my recent blogging bubble I’m an English teacher in a secondary school so witness this awkward dynamic and angst on a daily basis. Like you, unfortunately, I still feel inadequate in offering the right advice to the right child. I consider myself lucky that, for the time being at least, my two kids are babies (eldest is 2, youngest is 6 months) so I can conveniently put this problem in a box and pack it away for future unraveling. I do dread their teen years though, particularly where we might be in terms of our online behaviour (or whatever technological development will follow) as that is very, very difficult to monitor and manage. Thanks for sharing. #binkylinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      Thanks for your comment and 1) confirming my fears and 2) reassuring me I’m not a fool for worrying about it!

      My hope is that by the time our kids reach that point online behaviour will have settled down and if not at least better tools to handle harassment and privacy are available.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really tricky one. Trying to make sure my children know the difference between tomfoolery and bullying is something I wish I could guarantee. However getting my two to stop trying to get each other into trouble over the slightest thing is a whole other story!!! 😩 #FabFridayPost

    Liked by 1 person

  4. min1980 says:

    I would have felt very uneasy about that parent’s reaction too. Unfortunately I have seen many inappropriate parental reactions in my time as a teacher, and it is sad. Finding the right thing to say can sometimes be difficult though. My son is still only little, so I haven’t had any of these issues yet, but I dread them! #FabFridayPost


  5. This is a really tricky one, I’m pleased I have a few years before I have to worry about it. I think digital world can increase the amount of negative things children are exposed to at a young age but there are also many positive experiences they can gain. It’s yet another parenting challenge to get the balance right? It’s a tough job but I know nobody would change it for the world! #bestandworst

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally understand your concern- especially when it comes from an adult. But I am of the view that we can’t (or shouldn’t) totally shield our children from such behaviour, it’s a big bad world out there and kids are more robust than we think. It’s a fine line between bullying and playing around, but all we can do is guide our little ones to making the best choices; as hard as that might be! Great post, got my mushy, mum brain thinking! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      The world can be big and bad and we are here to try and equip them to handle it but there will be sometimes when they can’t go it alone and part of equipping them is giving them the confidence to look for help when they’ve gone as far as they can. When kids are told not to do that for fear of being labelled a sneak it can harm their chances of dealing with the bullies of the world. Part of the reasons that bullies can and do flourish is the silence of their victims and those that witness it.

      Thanks for your comment and glad the post interested you!


  7. helen gandy says:

    Eek, it is a difficult one isn’t it! I’m not really sure how I would handle it, I guess I try see it from either side of the coin. Thanks for linking up #bestandworst

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oooh I like this post – I relate a lot. I really want my son to be confident, social able and outspoken if necessary. They were all the things I wasn’t as a child and I try my best to encourage him to think and feel out loud and not be embarrassed. I hope he will fight his corner and stand up for himself and his friends. ‘Being cool’ tends to translate as a bully or a bitch in my experience #fabfridaypost

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Emily says:

    Without knowing the exact circumstances it can be hard to figure out what’s the best course of action to take, but I do think the parent in this situation was wrong regardless of what exactly happened. Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nige says:

    Fantastic post it’s always difficult to decide how to handle it hopefully it can resolved easily and I agree with Emily the parent is wrong Thanks for linking to the #binkylinky

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

    It is so tricky & something I’ve been thinking about lately as my oldest just turned 9. It’s not easy growing up & trying to figure out who you are. I think there is a mix between trying to be liked & realizing you have to be yourself. I think most of us don’t realize how important the values & being yourself is until we get a little older though. #AnythingGoes x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShoeboxofM says:

      That’s a good point. It may be that at an early age these conflicts about values and what it means to be who we are in thought and in action is felt but not understood.

      There’s lots of pop songs and messages about being true to yourself but that’s more in terms of dreams rather than morals and values.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Becky, Cuddle Fairy says:

        Just popping back over to say thanks so much for joining us for #bloggerclubuk, hope you will be back again tomorrow! x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShoeboxofM says:

        I hope so! I need to have a post to add first!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Mrs Tubbs says:

    It’s a hard one … I think you try to equip them for these situations as you won’t always be there and hope that all the good stuff they get at home will help them. But when you are there, you keep an eye to see how they handle it and step in if needed / appropriate.

    I’m slightly mystified why a parent would angry at a child for telling them that an (assumed unknown) bigger child pushed over a much smaller one. That just seems weird …!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a future dread of mine, too. I think my son is fairly assertive when it comes to getting his voice heard, but I hope not aggressive. He has certainly got a strong character amongst his peers, but when some older boys took against him in the playground it was a different story. His resilience meant he just kept trying to play with them until the penny dropped, and he has talked a lot since about when the big boys didn’t want to be his friend. I think it had never occurred to him before that someone wouldn’t want to play with him – just the start!
    x Alice

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve always stood firm by doing the right thing and being myself rather than have friends. I was part of the popular crowd in high school and I was happy with that. I feel very strongly that if I have friends, they’re going to be the true kind of friends I can count on and not like me for any superficial reason. I raise my kids like that as well. I place a high value on being oneself and standing up for what you believe in rather than having fake friends. Being yourself will attract the right people to you. This is what I teach my kids and they don’t have a problem with it either. This is one of those values that I don’t compromise on which is why it is sometimes really hard for me to understand teenagers these days with all the technology and putting up with the incessant bullying and becoming bullies themselves because the internet makes it so easy for them to do this. It boggles my mind and makes me worry for today’s kids. Popping over from #mg


  15. cherylbarry says:

    Hhhmmm a tricky one and something I hopefully won’t have to think about for a while (although as you say, this will creep up quicker than we think!) I think values are more important and your self belief but this can be forgotten during those angsty teenage years when friendships are so important. #AnythingGoes

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sassy says:

    This is a great post, and a real thought provoking one at that! I get completely where you’re coming from. For me it is better to stand your ground and stand by your morals, than to waver them just to be liked.
    When I was in high school I was a mixture of being popular, and unpopular: high school is a giant playground and one day someone is your best friend and the next they are not. It’s a mind field of unpredictability unfortunately. There will be times where your child will probably agree With the majority vote, because essentially psychology says we follow the crowd. But I personally believe that if you teach them from a young age about; morals, beliefs, and standing up for what you believe in even in the face of adversity, they will become more well rounded individuals. 🙂 #BloggerClubUKu

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Mary says:

    I’m baffled at the parent’s response. I encouraged our children to look out for each other and engage our help if needed. My children are all grown and married now but I remember those hard days of choices, wanting to fit in yet also wanting to stand tall in their beliefs. I think that’s why its so important for children to always know they are loved and liked and valued as people in their families, because they might not have that in the world that day.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hmm that’s a tough one. I would like to think I’d want my child to be who they are whether that’s in the “cool” crowd or not. However, as you’ve said, it’s so different actually being a child and deciding what to do. In the real world, there is still a popularity contest at work and what not so in a way having people like yours a skill that is worth having but not to the extent that you lose yourself while you’re doing it! Thanks for linking up with #StayClassy!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I can’t believe a parent said that, I would want to know if my child was being hurt. We have the whole coming and telling us something we don’t really need to know at the moment to try and get the other one in trouble which is bad enough. I’m dreading the teenage years. Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Liked by 1 person

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