Start reading Best Friends, Worst Enemies on the free Kindle Reading App or on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Enter a promotion code
or gift card

Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children [Kindle Edition]

Michael Thompson Phd , Cathe O'Neill-Grace
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $11.04
You Save: $4.96 (31%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition $11.04  
Hardcover --  
Paperback $11.62  
Kindle Daily Deals
Kindle Delivers: Daily Deals
Subscribe to find out about each day's Kindle Daily Deals for adults and young readers. Learn more (U.S. customers only)

Book Description

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 author Catherine O’Neill Grace, illuminate the crucial and often hidden role that friendship plays in the lives of children from birth through adolescence.

Drawing on fascinating new research as well as their own extensive experience in schools, Thompson and Grace demonstrate that children’s friendships begin early–in infancy–and run exceptionally deep in intensity and loyalty. As children grow, their friendships become more complex and layered but also more emotionally fraught, marked by both extraordinary intimacy and bewildering cruelty. As parents, we watch, and often live through vicariously, the tumult that our children experience as they encounter the “cool” crowd, shifting alliances, bullies, and disloyal best friends.

Best Friends, Worst Enemies brings to life the drama of childhood relationships, guiding parents to a deeper understanding of the motives and meanings of social behavior. Here you will find penetrating discussions of the difference between friendship and popularity, how boys and girls deal in unique ways with intimacy and commitment, whether all kids need a best friend, why cliques form and what you can do about them.

Filled with anecdotes that ring amazingly true to life, Best Friends, Worst Enemies probes the magic and the heartbreak that all children experience with their friends. Parents, teachers, counselors–indeed anyone who cares about children–will find this an eye-opening and wonderfully affirming book.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not since Dr. Spock or Penelope Leach has there been such a sensitive and practical guide to raising healthy children and this one doesn't end at potty training. Child therapists Thompson (coauthor of bestseller Raising Cain) and Cohen (Playful Parenting) have teamed up with Washington Post columnist and children's writer Grace (all three are parents) to describe the social lives of kids and the appropriate roles of parents, teachers and school administrators. They explore the stages of children's development, from parent-bonded to quasi-asocial toddler, the learning-the-rules phase in elementary school and adolescent and romantic bonding. Each phase may bring some negative experiences including some outright cruelty that can be hard on both parents and children, but sometimes necessary for learning about the world. They advise parents to think of themselves as "lifeguards" at the pool, aware of what's going on with their kids, but only intervening in the rare crisis. The book wraps up on a practical note, with chapters on how schools can be proactive and how parents can be most useful. Their advice? Don't worry so much, set a good example, keep perspective and relax most kids turn out okay. Thompson and Grace's breezy "we've all been there" anecdotal style will bring great comfort to any parents who're worried about their kid's social life in other words, any parent. (Sept.)Forecast: The planned 12-city author tour and print advertising in the New York Times and USA Today will yield big sales, supported by the strength of Thompson's name and Grace's media connections.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Bullying has become an area of concern in the media and society. This book discusses that topic but weaves it into a broader study of children's friendships. Thompson, a clinical psychologist and coauthor of Raising Cain; Grace, an author of children's books and a former columnist for the Washington Post; and psychologist Cohen (Playful Parenting) present a developmental perspective as they describe how children's social lives develop from toddlerhood to adolescence. Research and analysis are interspersed with personal anecdotes and vignettes in an engaging style. The book concludes with advice to teachers and parents on how to improve social life in schools and support children's friendships. This is not a formulaic, how-to book. As the authors themselves acknowledge, the best way to learn about friendship is to practice it. However, it does provide useful perspective on a critical aspect of adolescent development, which tends to be overlooked until schoolyard feuds erupt into violent confrontations. The book may also be reassuring to parents since it outlines information on current dating styles, acceptable ranges of friendship patterns, and normal gender differences in interpersonal relationships. Recommended for public library parenting collections to complement Charlene C. Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese's more narrowly focused Cliques: 8 Steps To Help Your Child Survive the Social Jungle (LJ 2/1/01). Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S., Evansville, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 515 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345438094
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (October 24, 2001)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1GVA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,834 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
This book deserves many more than five stars for its careful, thoughtful, and detailed look at how children develop their social lives. Like all remarkable books, it will extend your understanding beyond your personal life experiences and provide simple, common sense guidelines for achieving outstanding results. If you only read one book this year about improving the social life of your child, make it this one!
Every book I read about the psychological problems of youngsters focuses on the forms of social exclusion and bullying that typically occur in schools and neighborhoods. Best Friends, Worst Enemies takes that as the starting point, explains what causes the social exclusion and bullying, and details what schools and parents can do to eliminate it.
Social connection between children begins at a younger age than most people believe. The book details videotaped studies of infants watching and connecting with each other. Then, step-by-step, the authors show you how social interaction develops from those early months through to dating. I was particularly impressed by the conceptual description of youngsters being assigned a place versus the in group (in or out, and high or low status in that role). Although I could not articulate it, that certainly captures my recollection of those painful teenage years.
The use of animal studies is persuasive for the ways that humans often behave. I found myself chuckling over the descriptions of Alpha male and Queen Bee female behaviors.
The best part of the book is that it points out that exclusion is bad for those who do it, as well as for those who suffer from it. So all parents and all youngsters should be concerned.
The book avoids being too technical about psychological concepts.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing June 10, 2009
This book could have used an editor, or a better one. I found it much too wordy: he says in 4 paragraphs what was already clear in the first paragraph. I felt that he was explaining issues to about a 6th grade level person.

I was less interested in the theory in the abstract and would have appreciated more suggestions for parental action (or inaction) in each chapter. Instead, the "What parents can do" chapter was stuck onto the end of the book like an afterthought, and read like an article in O..."10 things you can do". The one part of the book that was brief, and it was the part I had hoped to be in-depth.

Finally, I thought the author put a lot of weight on the parents' impact on a child's personality. Obviously there is a huge influence, but there was little mention of temperament. It was just: "Johnny's quiet, and when you meet his Dad, he's quiet, too." And some examples were more accusatory: the mother is not socially skilled, so no wonder the child isn't. There are lots of kids struggling who are just that way. I don't care if he blames me as a mother, but why I think this misses the boat is that it portrays only the weak side of the child's personality and poses it as a mention that this can be the way the child is wired and that there are associated strengths. I think that knowledge affects a parent's ability to accept a child who is "different" and support him/her in their strengths and help them offset their weaknesses to minimize the negative impact of the weakness on their life.

I was looking forward to reading this book, and found it very disappointing.
Was this review helpful to you?
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking January 27, 2002
This book has been a help in understanding my five-year-old's peer relationships, and is thought-provoking even for non-parents. I found the book well-organized and well-written. It helps make sense of children's behavior in terms of their needs for "connection, recognition, and power." It points out that children balance these three needs. Soon after reading this book, my son provided a stunningly concrete example of this. He and his friend had drawn chalk "tornado spinners" on the driveway. My son said, "My tornado spinner is more powerful than yours, because it's bigger." The other boy quietly said, "I'm not sure if I want to be friends with you any more." My son said, "OK, OK, they're the same power." The need for connection had won over the need for power and recognition.
There are some helpful hints to be gleaned from the book as well. Here's one I related to. Often, if a child has a problem at school with another child one day, the parent will tend to ask the child on the following day, "So, how did it go with Johnny today?" Your child, meanwhile, had forgotten all about the problem, but your comment provokes a "come to think of it..." reaction, causing the child to continue to dredge up negatives.
The book divides children into "accepted," "rejected," and "neglected" types, to describe how their peers treat them. I fell squarely into the "neglected" category, which I think explains my lack of understanding of the "need to belong" that so many people feel -- I wasn't really "in the game."
The authors mention a fascinating psychological experiment dealing with the need to belong. The subject was put into a group of people, and all were supposed to look at several pairs of lines and tell which was the longer line: A or B.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Insightful for parents of elementary and middle school students.
Published 1 month ago by Gail M McNulty
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by Hope B. Connors
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful for a mother of 2
Got this book for my daughter who has two boys and she was very pleased with the information and feels that she learned a great deal that will assist her in understanding the boys... Read more
Published 6 months ago by William L. Bush
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good overview of the role of friends in children's development. Easy and enjoyable to read.
Published 6 months ago by Ck Duvall
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Friends , Worst Enemies
This book really knows where children are coming from and is well written. The author explains "child speak" and what they really mean by their behaviors and remarks. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
This book is so powerful. As a parent or educator, it takes you on a step by step journey of the stages your child will encounter as he/she grows up. I learned so much. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ceara
5.0 out of 5 stars Great help with kiddos
This book is a great help with children in many age groups helping them to learn about proper positive social interaction.
Published 15 months ago by Babiez
4.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable Read for Youth Workers
Typically, Michael Thompson (Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children), does a superb job providing real-life sketches of children in today's... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Harold H. Comings
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of...
Understanding the lives of elementary school children, with more complexities than one would guess, comes to life in this little book. Sage advise for parents.
Published on March 11, 2012 by Sj Hutchinson
5.0 out of 5 stars I am happy
The book arrived in time and in good shape, just as promised. I am glad I decided to buy this book. It is a great read. Don't hesitate to buy and read it. Read more
Published on January 14, 2012 by Mimi
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category