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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children
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Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  177 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Friends broaden our children�s horizons, share their joys and secrets, and accompany them on their journeys into ever wider worlds. But friends can also gossip and betray, tease and exclude. Children can cause untold suffering, not only for their peers but for parents as well. In this wise and insightful book, psychologist Michael Thompson, Ph.D., and children�s book a ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 30th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published July 30th 2001)
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(showing 1-30 of 623)
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Kirsti
3.5 stars. The authors are insightful and compassionate about children and teens. Unfortunately, nearly all the examples are of upper-middle-class straight white people from Massachusetts. I would have found the book more compelling if the authors had made more of an effort to include the rest of the country and different income levels.

Interesting insights:

* Researchers believe that some children are capable of bonding with friends as early as one year old. Children younger than this can't crawl
...more
Jason
Jul 22, 2014 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents, child abductors
Recommended to Jason by: some advice columnist chick
While this book is a little dated in its references to technology (which I'm sure play a greater role now-a-days) I feel like the author prepared me a bit for the horrors that await me as my kids enter middle school. I read this in order to understand more about the pressures that kids are under and what I can do to help as a parent.

I learned much about the experience of girls (generally of course) versus boys. Reading this is a schizophrenic experience since you'll be comparing his comments wit
...more
Alessandra Trindle
It's rare for me to read non-fiction and even more rare for me to read anything in the category of "self-help". Much like I think economists can't predict for human emotions in market decisions, most psychologists can't account for a person's full motivations. However, this book was recommended to me as the PA President of the kids' school, and it behooved me to take heed.

Basically the author's premise is that kids are far more motivated by their peer groups than their parents, especially as the
...more
Jill
I can not tell a lie - I only read one chapter of this book. But it was a 3-star chapter!

If you spent time with me on an everyday basis, you would hear me say one thing over and over, and that is that my students have social issues. Literally every day, at least 3-4 times a day, I hear the following sentence (said in a whiny voice), "Susie doesn't want to be my friend." Or, "Bobby said I can't play with him." I am literally at my wit's end. So, in an attempt to combat my impending insanity, I ch
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Gina
This is pretty good. It goes over friendship starting with how it develops along with the child, and then covers other social factors. I can see it being very helpful for parents in terms of having a more realistic view of peer pressure, and a better understanding of when intervention is necessary. It is very plain, common sense, and the biggest help may be confirming for some parents that there are things they do not need to worry over.

The most frustrating thing for me is that there are several
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Rebecca
This was required summer reading for my job, and I think it offered a lot of valuable information. The problem, I think, is that I'm reading it from a teacher's perspective and it seems to be more aimed at parents--I think it would work better for parents. To get the most out of it, you really need to read it with a specific child in mind, and as a teacher I know so many children that I couldn't focus on just one. The result was that I focused on myself as a child, which is one of the things the ...more
Jennifer
This book is great for new parents, teachers, or others working with kids. It provides an outline on social development of children and how they work through on and off again friendships. The authors address how easily it is for parents to get caught up in their child's development and provides strategies to assist their child. They also address characteristics that are typical as well as when to be more concerned.
The overall approach seemed to be that kids get through it and was a broad overvi
...more
Michelle
I really, really, really liked this book. It's interesting, because the authors sort of disagree with "The Nurture Assumption", which was another book I really, really, really liked.
Awesome quote:
"Adults often ask me why children in groups are so cruel. I am always astonished by the question. What about groups of adults? What about the Holocaust? What about the Serbs and Croats? How could neighbors who had lived together for hundreds of years suddenly turn on one another and begin to see each o
...more
Sarah Pascarella
Valuable insights here on how children relate to each other, how they process the world, and how relationship dynamics shift from early childhood all the way through the late teen years. For those regularly interacting with kids, this is an indispensable book on how to relate and interpret their social lives; it's also a worthy read for those seeking to make sense of the impact that their own childhood friendships (and antagonistic relationships) made on adult identity, behavior, and psyches.
Audrey
This is an interesting book about group dynamics and the sociology of children. It might be useful if a self-help-type book on this subject was written FOR pre-teens and teenagers, since most of their social issues arise during that age. It would be a book they ought to read, but probably not one that they would, I suppose. This book isn't written for that age group, though I think there are some points that would be useful to know at that age.
Emily
Before you send your child to school, please read this book. I wish my parents had read it. It helped me come to terms with and understand a little bit better the cruelty I experienced and sometimes participated in during elementary school. It is not only informative about many aspects of children's social worlds and group dynamics, but also provides helpful suggestions of things you can do to help your child navigate that difficult landscape.
Amy
This is an important book. Anyone desiring a better understanding of children and human behavior in general would be well off to read this. One of the best parts of the book is a age/stage identification of a picture in time of what friendships look like at each age. Thompson also gives good solid advice with what happens when...scenarios. The last chapters on what schools can do and what parents can do are also very good.
Jschwabenland1
New information on bullies and group dynamics. I find it fasinating...none of us are immune to it.

I wish it spoke more of the problem about what it your kid brings home friends that turn out to be problamatic to your kid or your family. However, I did learn a lot. One thing is that a friendship should be equitable. When it is unbalanced on either side, then that usually spells trouble.
Robert
I really liked this book. Some of it seems like common sense, and a lot of it's not particularly new if you've ever studied social science, but it was an excellent overview of the problems children face socially, and it was grounded in research on the subject. So many books along these lines seem so flimsy, based mostly on platitudes, but this one seemed quite useful.
Garrett Burnett
Interesting stuff about adolescent relationships. Almost any parent could stand to gain something by checking this out from the library and at very least reading the last chapter (which lists ten things you can do to encourage positive peer relationships for your child).
Celia Barry
Great book for anyone who has children in their lives (sons, daughters, grandkids, etc.). The social lives of children is very insightful for adults. I would especially recommend this to anyone who might have concerns about their child's friends or peer groups.
Emma
I am reading this for my return to the classroom in a couple weeks. Quite poignant and brings you back to that cruelty that children can possess....but also helps you find that place to step in as the wise survivor, the adult. A must-read for teachers and parents.
Anne
A decent parenting book with some solid observations and ideas about helping your child navigate the social ups and downs of school. It's about 10 years old, but since bullying still seems to be a huge issue in schools, still worth a read.
Gena
I expected more from this book---I really like Michael Thompson, but this seemed to ordinary to me... Maybe it is from a lifetime of teaching kids, but I felt like he gave me no new insight. Still, it was an okay book for it's purpose.
Crystal
Not as good as I had hoped, and very broad- covering from early childhood through adolescence. I don't think that is helpful to parents who are seeing their kids struggle socially right now. But, still good general info.
Renee
more for parents...but still interesting ideas about social behavior...
Acalanes was clearly analyzed in many chapters with its theories about cliques and peer pressure...not that I ever peer pressured anyone. :)
Suzanne Koebler
Good things to think about as the parent of a 3rd grader.. or even earlier. The hard lesson was that you have to help your kid survive the ups and downs of social life without trying to change things or make it easier.
Linda
I thought this was very informative, but I so wish that he had more suggestions for parents. Lots of schools, but not so much for the mamas and the daddies.
Nicole
I really enjoyed this one, because teachers and parents see these confusing social behaviors EVERYDAY, and the explanation of them is so interesting.
Laurie
I appreciated some of the concepts but, not having gone to school for this subject, I found it a bit too technical and dry.
Stefanie
Another parenting book that I reread. Great to have on the shelf if you are interested in the dynamics of child's friendships.
Kiersten
I read this book for a school course but recently took it out to flip through again just for some general info. Not bad.
Heather
Understanding the social lives of children and removing ourselves from trying to control it....
Linda
We've selected this book for use in our teacher-parent book discussion group.
Frannie
Recommended by several friends. Looking forward to delving into it.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

psychologist, school consultant and international speaker on the subjects of children, schools and parenting
More about Michael G. Thompson...
It's a Boy!: Understanding Your Son's Development from Birth to Age 18 Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow Speaking of Boys: Answers to the Most-Asked Questions About Raising Sons The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life Mom, They're Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems

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