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Being a follower is not a bad thing


Q. My 5-year-old son is good friends with another boy his age who lives on our street. They have a great time together, but my son is always the follower, never the leader. They were in the same preschool class this year, and my son felt comfortable having his friend around. I'm worried, though, that my son is always in this boy's shadow. He seems to stick to him instead of interacting with other kids on his own.

I'm thinking about separating the two of them for kindergarten. What do you think?

A. I think you are making too much of it, and I'd value their relationship more than the roles they play in it. Don't let your son know that you worry about his being a follower. When a parent doesn't value a child the way he is, it is likely to damage his self-esteem.

Even if you separate them, I bet he'll find another "hero" to follow. This is not a bad role for him to play. He's probably learning how to be a leader by watching his friends carefully.

I do think it would help him to have more than one friend, so try to introduce him to a child with a similar temperament. Set up excursions and play dates for the two of them.

But value the friendship he already has, and let the two boys feel close to each other. It's a wonderful experience for the future!

Address questions to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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