Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can we make our kids into best friends? Should we?


Several years ago my new neighbor across the street and I had a heated discussion about this topic. We were delighted that their little girl one year younger than Twinkle Toes and one year older than Measle had moved in across the street. They were a sweet Christian family and we loved that our girls had a ready playmate eager to play with them on a daily basis. Perfect, right? Well, not exactly. As human nature would have it, or sin nature more like, our three girls didn’t always get along. My solution was to “make” them get along. I told them if they couldn't get along together that their friend would have to go home. My neighbor had a different take on the situation. She had grown up in a rural setting and having a friend over for her had been a rare treat. Her mother had made her include her little sister (4 or 5 years younger) and my neighbor explained that she grew to resent this. She felt it was best if her daughter and my older daughter only wanted to play with one another to let them leave out our younger daughter. (She was thinking this way Twinkle Toes wouldn’t come to resent Measle.) This was unthinkable to me and after discussing the issue with my husband I got back with her that we would only accept that under certain circumstances such as advanced notice without the knowledge of our younger daughter. In other words, I told our neighbor that we did not want her daughter to ring our doorbell and then when our two little girls answered the door together have our neighbor only invite Twinkle Toes to play and not the Measle. That seemed too cruel to me and would inevitably leave Measle in tears. Fast forward a few years and I can tell you this has mostly worked out. However, as parents, our goal was never to make our girls best friends with the across the street neighbor. Our goal was to make our girls best friends with one another.

This brings me back to my original question. Can we make our kids into best friends? I guess the answer is I don’t know, yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that. I will say that homeschooling our children means they spend all day everyday together. And for the most part they work, study, and play wonderfully together. And when they don’t, well we insist that they do. Let me elaborate.

I bought the book Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends a few years ago hoping for a prescription. You know, do this, don’t do that, and presto your kids are best friends. I don’t have personal experience with siblings since I was an only child and have always searched for a guide book to help me help my kids form strong bonds. At first glance I was disappointed by the book when I realized there was no prescription. But as I’ve spent more and more time in the book I’ve come to love it and cherish it as the gem it is. Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends has taught me that sibling relationships are no different qualitatively than any of our relationships. The same fundamentals that make a good friend apply to making a good sibling. For that matter, the same character qualities that my husband and I strive for to make a good marriage, apply. It turns out it’s not rocket science. If you help your kids learn humility, meekness, sensitivity, forgiveness, and love, then they’re going to be able to be friends with one another through thick and thin. If on the other hand, you allow resentment, envy, and strife rule the day, you’re more likely to end up in a war zone.



Now on to the second question. If we can, should we make our kids into best friends? What about Biblical examples? It seems we can learn as much by the bad examples as from the good ones. Famous, or notorious sibling relationships gone bad include Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac (with ramifications continuing to this day), Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his older brothers (though both of these later sets patched things up in the end). I don’t want to read too much into these examples, but it does appear that envy was a big problem common to all of these disastrous relationships. In many of these cases it was more a problem of parental favoritism that pitted brother against brother and in some cases eventually nation against nation.

We have positive examples in Scripture, too. Moses had Aaron to help him and Miriam, too. Several of Jesus’ disciples were sets of brothers. James and John were brothers and so were Peter and Andrew. Later, two of Jesus’ own brothers, James and Jude, became leaders in the early church. I’ve always thought it odd that they weren’t two of Christ’s first disciples. Why did it take the resurrection before they believed their half brother to be the long awaited Messiah? We know Jesus was without sin even in childhood, which certainly would not have escaped the notice of his siblings. Perhaps it was their own jealousy that impeded their understanding for so long. I imagine Mary and Joseph had a hard time not showing any favoritism toward Jesus! And Mary and Martha were sisters who seemed to be side by side almost every time we see them in Scripture.

It’s fun to think of these examples, but the main Biblical mandate on sibling relationships isn’t about siblings at all. All believers are called to bear the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5:22-23). Christians are supposed to be known by their love (1 John) and guard carefully what they say (Ephesians 4 and Proverbs). And Jesus told us we have to forgive those who have wronged us (sermon on the mount among others). In other words, if we’re being Biblical, we’re going to be very easy to be friends with! While my husband and I know we can’t make our kids into believers, we can hold the Bible up as the standard of truth and the living Word that is able to change us. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 If the Lord has given to us “all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), we don’t need a special rule book for sibling relationships. We just need to teach God’s Word to our children. Biblical discipleship, godly character training, whatever you want to call it, will make all the difference in the world in all of their relationships. While parents lack the power to change their children’s hearts, God’s Word is all powerful and will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). When we’re faithful to instruct our kids in the fear and wisdom of God from the Bible, we can rest assured that God’s Word will do its work and have God’s intended effect on them. When you think about this, it takes a tremendous load off our shoulders. It’s not really up to us as parents whether our kids end up best friends. What is up to Christian parents, is that we spend time instructing our kids in the doctrines of the Bible. It’s the most important thing we’ll ever do with our kids. After all, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) No one has ever come to salvation apart from the Word of God. There is no shortcut to rearing godly children. And godly children will be able to be a friend to their siblings in all circumstances.

6 comments:

  1. Really loved your post today! I have five kids and sometimes feel like I'm in a war zone and at other times feel like I'm watching my kids build amazing relationships with each other. It's liberating to be reminded that our job is to consistently teach them the Word and help nurture their relationship with the Lord. And it's HIS job to actually do the real work and effect change in their hearts. Very encouraging!

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  2. The question about Jesus in his family relationships may be one that you'll have to revisit for us in a separate blog post. :) I was just thinking about this the other day as a mother, what would it be like to have a "perfect" child? I feel that now in my spiritual walk, the closer I draw to Jesus the more I see my own wretchedness. How would that feel as his parent or sibling? Knowing that he is perfect, would it reveal more of my own sin and how would I feel? Defensive? Ashamed? Desperate? Embarrassed? And if I fell in love with Jesus, felt him as my "best friend" wouldn't I feel jealous when I had to share him with everyone else (like, come home for dinner once in a while would ya, Jesus?? LOL).

    I think I may need to read this book--thank you for the post!

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  3. Good points Steph. I always thought it might also be related to the fact they knew Him as just a man. "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." (Mathew 13:57) The whole familiarity breeds contempt thing. As a pastor's wife we try to pay careful attention to this warning, especially with our kids. But, I think all your points are very good ones and definitely played some part in some of His siblings not fully accepting who He was until after the proof, so to speak. Yes, being in the midst of holiness reveals our sin all the more! Thanks for developing that theme- I think maybe you need to devote a whole post on it:).

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  4. My children seemed to get along pretty well until we had three of them, and our oldest got older, now they squabble quite a bit! However, we DO want them to build solid relationships - one of the reasons we homeschool. I think I might have to pick up this book :).

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  5. My boys tend to get along beautifully or completely get on each other's nerves. Helping our children build good relationships with each other is so important and not something we cannot do in and of ourselves. Great post.
    I'm an only child, too, btw. AND I drive myself crazy with projects like sorting Legos. :)

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.