In today’s classroom, it is quite common for there to be a rule around Valentine’s Day that a child must give Valentines to every child in the classroom, not just their friends. While there are certainly good intentions behind this rule, some children may feel awkward giving Valentines to certain kids.
As parents, this begs the question of if this rule is good for the kids or if it creates more harm than good. Here are some potential pros and cons of both sides of the issue.
Pros of Giving Valentines to Everyone
Certainly, we are all aware of the bullying issues our schools are facing as well as the serious implications that feelings of loneliness can have on a child. In any type of scenario, such as Valentine’s Day when a child has the potential to be left out, parents and teachers are understandably on high alert to make sure no child feels alone. This is a good thing, as school should be an emotionally safe place for a child. By having the rule that every child receives Valentines, it completely eliminates the possibility of any child being left out.
There is also benefit to teaching a child that even if you don’t like someone or if they are different from you, you still need to be nice to them. It is hard sometimes for children to break out of their shell and reach out to others who are not as well liked or who are very different from them, but having these kids go through the practice of writing Valentines for all their classmates helps to break through that barrier.
Cons of Giving Valentines to Everyone
While it is good to teach kids to be nice to those they don’t like, there is also something to be said for forcing them to say things like “Be Mine” and “You’re My Valentine” to people who have been habitually mean to them. We always teach kids to be nice to everyone, even those not nice to you, but is it crossing a line to make them give a Valentine to someone who is a bully to them or mistreats them? There is a chance that this could be instilling in them a relationship pattern of permitting mean-spirited behavior and still “liking” that person.
As kids get a little older, too, you add in the factor of the awkward phase of kids starting to have feelings or attractions and the classroom drama centering around who likes each other. This can make giving Valentines with “XOXO” and “You’re Mine” a very big deal to these kids. More might be read into these Valentines at this stage than is intended, creating quite the gossip and potentially embarrassed or hurt feelings.
Pros of NOT Giving Valentines to Everyone
Part of what used to make receiving Valentine’s Day cards so fun and special is that it meant you had good friends or maybe even a crush. Getting one of these cards meant something, and it brightened your day knowing that someone thought about you and cared enough to write you a card. Now, with everyone getting Valentines, there is nothing special at all about the card. A child knows they received these cards just because every single other person in the class had to receive it, too. If a Valentine is made specifically for a friend, then it actually means something and will make the recipient feel valued on Valentine’s Day.
This also gives kids the opportunity to think about what makes a good friend and why. If they have to think about which of their fellow classmates they want to give Valentines to, then they have to figure out who their friends really are. Is it the girl who is popular but who always shares your secrets? Is she a friend you want to give a card to? Or is it the girl who always sits with you when you’re alone at lunch? Is that more of what a true friend looks like?
Cons of NOT Giving Valentines to Everyone
As mentioned above, by not mandating Valentines be given to all students, there is the potential to have kids left out or kids who don’t get as many cards as others. This does open the door to a child feeling alone and sad. A kid who is new to the class, who does not seem to fit in, or who is more of an introvert may end up feeling less appreciated than the more popular kids in the class. These feelings are not insignificant and could have detrimental impacts to these kids.
There is also the potential for kids to develop habits of cliques in school. The thought process could become quite exclusionary as they pick out who their friends are and who are not. We want kids to be inclusionary when it comes to being nice to people, playing with others, and having friends. By handpicking Valentines, this may be counterproductive to that mentality.
What are your thoughts? Does your school mandate Valentines for everyone? Does this rule bother your kids, or do they appreciate it? Let’s discuss in the comments below.