Q. My elementary school-age son has a buddy in his class who isn't a great influence. When they are together, they fool around, and I think it's aggravating his teacher. I want to discourage this friendship. Should I? If so, how?
A. "I wouldn't recommend discouraging the friendship just because the children are 'horsing around' during instructional time," says Donna Guarton, psychologist in the Baldwin school district. It's more constructive to teach the boys that there is a time for play and a time to be actively involved in learning.
Ask the teacher to meet with the boys and explain expectations regarding classroom behavior. She should be specific, outlining requirements such as listening when the teacher is talking and following directions the first time. She should help the boys by modifying their environment when possible -- for instance, seating them away from each other. The teacher also should reward the boys for demonstrating self-control.
If you merely discourage the friendship, you might fix the short-term problem, but what happens when the next unruly friendship forms?
"Children can be brilliant academically, but if we don't teach them how to interact with others appropriately, they will have a difficult time in life," Guarton says. "Developing social skills is as important to a student's ultimate success as learning to read, do math and write. Taking a friend away or limiting a friendship is not the solution."