Recently, my children asked if we could reread a book called, “Making brothers and sisters best friends.” It is a cute and practical book written by three siblings, ages 22,16,and 10. As we have been reading it, I have been thinking about my ever changing relationship with my children. I often tease saying, I had all these children so I could raise them to be my friends, after all I can make them just the way I want. Right? But truthfully, I do love my children and cherish them as best friends from the very first moment I knew them. The only earthly friend closer than my children is my husband. I am blessed with lots of wonderful friendships, but the truth is my closest friends are related to me. Either by birth or marriage. My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, and my in-laws know me better than anyone else and they love me just the way I am. Good or bad days, I can count on them, and they can count on me. That is what best friends are really all about.
How do we raise our children to be people we want to hang out with, and who want to hang out with us? Well, I have been pondering this. And as I pondered, I thought of my own parents, and siblings. I thought of my adult children, and my one year old. I thought of how differently I think about discipline now, compared to what I did when I first became a parent. You see, when, I first became a parent, I read every parenting book, I went to Sunday school parenting classes, I listened to my pediatrician. I wanted to do it right, I wanted to be well educated on how to train up my children. The crazy thing was everyone had different advice. As a new mom, I tried it all. The problem was my kids all had unique personalities, they were and still are all strong willed, and not one of them read the parenting books. So what seemed to work with one child, didn’t work with the next one. With those first few kids it was trial and error most of the time. It is amazing how well they all turned out.
In the beginning, I felt strongly about swift discipline, spanking, consistency, and “yes, mom.” I felt strongly about these things, but often I was exhausted and overwhelmed by day to day life, so my desire to parent just right, didn’t always turn out just right. I yelled, I bargained, I ignored, I hoped, and I worried. I cried, and I prayed.
Then everything started to change, my children started to talk like real people. They asked cool questions, and told me cool stories, and learned to read and research cool things, and before I know it, I discovered they were really cool people. I found I liked them a lot. They challenged me to study more, to learn more, to grow more. Sometimes I felt like they were smarter than me, sometimes I still do.
They still made mistakes. I still had to help them mature and develop into adulthood. But this new found joy of parenthood changed everything. It also made me realize that the phases of infancy, toddler-hood, preschoolers, and immature adolescence is very short. So, short that if I blink I might miss it. I realized that there was no need to cry over the little things. Instead of disciplining when I was overwhelmed or over tired, and lose my temper. It was better to let it wait. There will be another opportunity to correct those immature and childish behaviors, but I won’t be able to take away the hurt i could cause from over reacting and saying or doing things I would later regret.
I realized that the most important thing I can do for my children when they are young is keep them safe, give them a true sense of trust and security. The best way to do that, I realized was to be with them, feed them, clothe them, take care of them. Instead of “disciplining” a crying baby who needs comforted, I should just comfort him. Instead of spanking a child that is having a melt down, because I was too busy to notice they need a nap, a hug, a little attention. I should give them the attention they need. I have found a child that is given the care and attention they need, often doesn’t need a lot of corrective discipline.
That is not to say they never need corrected. Everyone sins, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone needs guidance and training. But it doesn’t need to be harsh or cruel. It doesn’t need to be over the top. It should be logical, consistent, just, and beneficial.
Why does discipline matter when raising our children to be our best friends?
Well, it is simple, if we don’t correct our children and guide them in truth then they won’t trust us or respect us. Do you want to be friends with someone you don’t trust or respect? I didn’t think so.
When our children are young they need us to teach them there is absolutes, there is a right and wrong way in life. We do this by our actions and our words. We also do this by having a standard in our homes that must be respected and observed. If it is not, then there must be consequences. By teaching our children natural consequences, we prepare them for life outside our home.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you use spankings, time out, groundings, or some other form of correction. What matters is that your children clearly understand what is expected and that the consequences fit the crime.
When our children are young and they learn our standard and learn to obey it, then as they develop they know they can trust us with their thoughts, hopes, silly ideas, dreams, and secrets. When we are consistently there for our children when they are young. When we teach them to trust and obey us, they also learn to trust and obey God. The relationship we build with our children can be the beginning of the greatest relationship they could ever have. When we take our love for God, and we share it with our children. Then it grows a love in them too.
What makes a best friend the bestest of all? The things we have in common. The greatest thing we can have in common with our friends is our faith. Hobbies and interests are great, but loving the Lord like you love the Lord is something that binds a friendship like nothing else.
So, how do you make your children your best friend? You center your relationship on the greatest friendship of all. Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah)!! First, we must love Yehovah God with all our being. Second, we must love our children and others more than ourselves. Third, we must teach our children to do the same. Fourth, we must share our relationship with Yehovah with our children, teaching them everything we can about Him and His Ways. Fifth, we must walk beside our children daily, talking with them all day long. It isn’t enough to just be with them. It isn’t enough to have our own relationship with God. We must share our relationship with them, we must speak to out about why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do, and why we teach what we teach.
Don’t assume your children will just know you love them. Don’t assume they know why you make the rules you make. You must make time for meaningful and purposefully conversations. Just like any meaningful friendship, it will require work and effort. But it will be worth every minute.
I hope my journey of making my children my best friends encourages and blesses you.