Big Kids

'Don’t make someone feel like a loser' - Mum's advice on becoming a circle breaker

Whitney Fleming has given up on telling her children to be kind. 

Instead, she is spending time practising kindness with her family, because she wants to teach her children how to become 'circle breakers'. 

It all started a number of years ago, when Whitney heard mums were tired of having to make an effort with new friends, they just wanted to hang in their own circle as they were too busy.

While the mum-of-three could understand the sentiment to an extent, she also thought it was incredibly unkind. 

"I initially felt like the remark was callous and unkind, […],  It is hard and time consuming and sometimes just one more task on an unending to-do list."

But as a mother who has moved around quite a bit, she knows what it's like to be the new person to a group, having to make new friends and join an inner circle. 

"Sometimes you want two minutes to scroll down on Facebook instead of introducing yourself to someone new. Is it wrong that you seek out who you know at that PTA meeting instead of sitting by the woman by herself?"

Whitney believes it doesn't always have to be your turn, you don't always have to be the mum who invites people in, but nonetheless, she can also feel her fears rising when she thinks of her children. 

"If you’ve ever sent your child to anything new – school, team, activity, etc. – you have probably felt the agony wondering if he or she had someone to sit with at lunch. A buddy to partner off with."

And while we hope that our children will be kind enough to speak to someone new, or to make a new friend, we as parents continuously bury our heads in the sand, we pair off toward what we know best. 

It's an automatic reaction, and sometimes we're not even aware we're doing it, closing ourselves off to the mum or dad standing alone. 

But Whitney is breaking the mould: "We keep telling our kids to be kind, but I'm not always sure they know what that means."

"I no longer tell my kids only to be kind, I tell them to be circle breakers."

Mum requests that her girls seek out the kid sitting alone, invite them to their group, they do not have to be best friends but they can introduce them to other people, hopefully helping that kid so they'll never have to sit alone again. 

"I ask that they be conscious of standing in a circle with their backs to other kids. I encourage them to say hi to everyone they know and offer smiles to those they don’t."

And moreover, while it's easiest to break circles from the comfort of being inside it, Whitney is encouraging her children to also break circles from the outisde too.

"Just take a deep breath and dive right in. Take another person with you when you can. And even though sometimes you may get a negative response, most people don’t even know they’ve formed a circle. For many, they just don’t know how to open it up."

But the best advice Whitney can give in helping parents to teach their kids to be circle breakers is pretty simple – be one yourself. 

"I particularly like to show my circle breaking powers off in front of my children. It seems to make their force even stronger," commented Mum. 

"Now I’m not saying every time you’re chatting with your friends you have to invite someone in; BUT be aware. […] It can change someone’s entire day."

"Be an example for your child on how to build relationships, build a community, build a positive life. And don’t make someone feel like a loser because they’re on the outside looking in."

There is nothing better than practising what you preach, and children are very good at playing follow the leader. As parents, we lead by example – set a good one. 

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