Traditional best-friend bonds might be suffering at the hands of school officials intent on discouraging anything that hints of exclusivity in an era when cliques can lead to bullying, both face-to-face and online, reports the New York Times. Increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend? Most children naturally seek close friends. But the classic best-friend bond signals potential trouble for school officials concerned about cliques and bullying. “I think it is kids’ preference to pair up and have that one best friend. As adults—teachers and counselors—we try to encourage them not to do that,” said Christine Laycob, director of counseling at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis. “We try to … get them to have big groups of friends and not be so possessive about friends.” That attitude is a blunt manifestation of a mind-set that has led adults to become ever more involved in children’s social lives in recent years. While in the past a social slight in backyard games rarely came to teachers’ attention the next day, today an upsetting text message from one middle school student to another is often forwarded to school administrators, who frequently feel compelled to intervene in the relationship. Indeed, much of the effort to encourage children to be friends with everyone is meant to head off bullying and other extreme consequences of social exclusion…

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staff and wire services reports