7 Characteristics of a Bully-Proof Friendship

Three teenage friends talking
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Everyone wants to feel like they belong, especially kids and teens. Having healthy friendship will help your child feel connected to the world. Studies have shown that healthy friendships also have a positive impact on overall health and well-being.

Friendships are crucial when it comes to bullying prevention. Bullies often target kids who are socially isolated. Kids who have a strong circle of friends are less likely to become victims of bullying.

Problems arise when friendships are unhealthy. In these situations, your child’s friend might be a bully. As a result, the friendship is more harmful than helpful. 

Here are the top seven characteristics of bully-proof friendships.

Treat Each Other as Equals

In a healthy friendship, all friends are treated as equals with an equitable say in what they do and where they go. Even if one or two friends tend to take the lead, they still treat your child with respect and as an equal.

In unbalanced friendships, one person typically takes control by wielding power, being bossy, or demanding that things are done a certain way. In these friendships, there is no collaboration or fair treatment.

Behaviors that enforce an imbalance of power are especially apparent in "mean girl" circles. If your child is not being treated as an equal in their friendships, these relationships are not healthy.

Are Honest and Trustworthy

Healthy friendships exist when friends are honest and trustworthy. Friends do not engage in gossip or rumors, and keep things others have shared with them in confidence.

If they do make a mistake, such as slipping up and sharing something, a healthy friend takes responsibility for their actions and apologizes.

Celebrate One Another's Successes

One of the best ways to determine if your child’s friendship is healthy is to watch how their friends respond when something good happens to them.

For instance, if your child makes a sports team or an gets an honor, do their friends celebrate and congratulate them? If your child makes a good grade or gets an award at school, are their friends happy for them or jealous instead?

Jealousy and envy are emotions that can lead kids to bullying. If you notice signs of jealousy in your child's social circle, talk to them about healthy friendships.

Stand Up for Each Other

Friendships help deter bullying when one friend stands up for another or defends someone who has become a bully's target. A good friend will tell the bully to stop, help the victim report the bullying, and support them once the bullying is over.

Good friends are more than just bystanders. They form a support system that will help your child cope with bullying and other challenges they encounter.

Support Other Friendships

Solid friendships are not exclusive friendships. When your child is in a healthy friendship, their friends are supportive of them having different groups of friends.

On the other hand, cliques are not supportive of branching out and may even "punish" members for having (or pursuing) other friendships.

Cliques insist on exclusivity and often pressure those in the group to conform by ostracizing others.

Are Real and Authentic

In a healthy friendship, your child will feel comfortable being themselves. Their friends will also be their authentic, real selves. No one in the group will feel as though they have to think or behave in a way that isn't who they are just to fit in.

If your child is hanging out with fake friends, there may be a lot of pretending. They may feel that they cannot show who they really are or express their true interests, personality, and preferences.

Do Not Engage in Peer Pressure

Good friends respect another person’s boundaries. If your child asks a friend not to do something or says no to a request, a good friend will respect the request.

Conversely, unhealthy friendships involve a lot of peer pressure. If your child’s friends pressure them into saying or doing things that they don't want to do (which may include bulling others), talk to your child about how to handle peer pressure.

A Word From Verywell

If your teen's friendships don’t have these seven characteristics, it's possible that your child is vulnerable to bullying. Talk with them about what constitutes a good friend and support them in trying to develop healthier friendships.

As a parent, you can help your child identify the difference between good friends and toxic people. Be patient and supportive along the way. Making lasting, healthy friendships is not always easy and it may take your child some time to find where they fit in.

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