Huffpost Parents
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Claire McCarthy, M.D. Headshot

6 Reasons Why Making Friends With Kids Is a Real Accomplishment

Posted: Updated:

The other day at a family party, a 6-year-old jumped out of her chair when she saw me and came over to give me a big hug.

I couldn't have been more honored. It made my day.

I firmly believe that the poem "Success" has it right by including as one of the definitions of success "to win the love of little children." As a pediatrician, I spend lots of time making friends with kids -- or at least trying to -- and it's not easy. Not that it's impossible, it can absolutely be done, but it's different from making friends with adults in some important ways:

They know when you are faking it. Not that adults can't figure out when you're faking it. But since adults do a fair amount of faking it themselves, they let it pass. Kids don't.

You have to be willing to be playful. For kids, there's not a whole lot of point in an interaction that doesn't involve some kind of play. (I see their point.) In order to be playful...

You need to be able to lose some self-consciousness. You're not going to be very convincingly playful if you worry about looking or acting silly (silliness is a bit necessary). A corollary to this is...

You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes quite literally, such as when jumping into cold water at the beach or trying a skateboard. But even if it's not literally uncomfortable (hey, you might be better at skateboarding than I am), children aren't just little adults and being friends means meeting them where they are. It also means...

You have to be willing to see the world the way they see it. This is actually a skill that is helpful with grownups, too, so it's worthwhile to learn it. To do it well...

You have to be patient. It takes a while to earn the affection of a child -- and some of the things you have to do to earn it (or to play with them), well, they take patience too. It helps to give yourself over to the Zen of it -- forcing a friendship or a game works far less well, and simple can actually be really fun if you let it be.

These are all hard, but each is, in its own way, a really good life lesson. Which is the gift of making friends with children: not only can they be great fun (I had a blast playing card games with the 6-year-old at the party), you might just end up a better, happier person.