When a Friend Isn't a Friend: How to Help Your Child Navigate a Challenging Friendship

February 25, 2021


God designed us to be in relationship with others. But sometimes, friendships are hard. 

For many of us, the struggle began when we were young girls. Those early interactions shaped the way we view ourselves and others and continue to influence us throughout our lives.

That's why we wanted to write our new devotional, 100 Daily Acts of Friendship for Girls. As three women who have been friends for more than 15 years—and moms to a combined seven daughters—we want to give girls practical tools to encourage them to become better friends, including giving and receiving apologies, setting appropriate boundaries, and standing up for yourself and others. Each day ends with a reflection question or two for the girl to consider, as well as an action step to take toward becoming a better friend.

Want to learn more? Here's a bonus devotional:

When a Friend Isn’t a Friend

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
Psalm 1:1

The art teacher had just stepped out of classroom. No sooner had the door clicked shut behind him than one of the students became upset that he had left. As the boy’s agitation grew, Tammy heard a snicker break through the quiet murmurs of the other students.

Looking up, she was surprised to realize that the noise was coming from her friend Nora. Tammy’s heart began to pound as Nora’s soft laughter triggered nervous, uncomfortable laughter in the other students. Within moments, the noise had increased, turning into full-fledged taunting—all because a student was struggling with fear and anxiety beyond his control.

Although the two girls had spent hours at each other’s houses over the years of their friendship, Tammy was knocked off-kilter by Nora’s unkind laughter. A swarm of butterflies in her stomach and a lump in her throat had joined her pounding heart. But before her brain had a chance to catch up with her body, she found herself standing and facing her friend.

Looking Nora in the eye, Tammy managed to say, “Knock it off. Just leave him alone.” The words sounded meek and breathless.

Nora glared in response. “What did you just say?”

Stronger now, Tammy repeated the words. “Knock it off. Leave him alone!”

Nora looked as stunned as Tammy felt. Turning back to Tammy as she sat down, she hissed, “You don’t always have to be such a suck up! The teacher’s not even in here to see you being the teacher’s pet.”

Nora’s words stung, but it no longer mattered. In those few moments that revealed her friend’s true character, the relationship changed. As Christians, we are reminded to be wise in our friendships—including not choosing to go along with those who mock others. Nora’s teasing had helped Tammy realize that sometimes friends shouldn’t be our friends, but stay acquaintances. Though Tammy was still kind to Nora whenever they were in class together, they no longer spent time with one another. Though someone may be kind to us, the way they treat others—especially those who are vulnerable or overlooked—reveals what’s really in their hearts.

Things to Think About:

What happens when “friends” reveal parts of their character we didn’t expect?

As Christians and as friends, what should our response be?

Daily Act of Friendship: Thank a friend—either in person, through text, or via a note—for standing by you in a hard situation.

Our newest book, the 100 Daily Acts of Friendship for Girls is written specifically for girls aged 8-12 as they navigate friendships in upper elementary and middle school. With a scripture, short story,

reflection questions and 50 fun activities to do with you or friends, it's a wonderful way to encourage your daughter, niece, granddaughter, God daughter and her friends to build healthy friendships from an early age.

And our adult friendship devotional, The One Year Daily Acts of Friendship is a perfect compliment to our book for tweens.

We've also written two kindness devotionals, The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional and 100 Days of Kindness. They tell the story of how our families embarked on a one-year journey of kindness, and include our successes, failures, and the encouragement you need as a family to incorporate kindness into your own life.

We would love to walk alongside you in encouragement, inspiration, and community. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram as The Ruth Experience or sign up for our monthly newsletter (no spam, ever), here.

Julie, Kendra, and Kristin

Photo credit: Branding with Savannah @savvyphotagebranding   


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