I grew up with one brother who was four years younger than me. I clearly remember he had a T-shirt that said, “Trouble Is My Middle Name.” And that's pretty much how I thought of Ronnie during my growing-up years. He messed up my toys. He pulled my hair. He spit on me. Yuck.
I remember when John and I first started dating. John asked about how my brother and I got along. I told him we didn't. I told John my brother had been a pest when we were little, and then John looked at me puzzled. “Did you ever invite him to play with you?” Uh, no. Honestly, I'd never thought of that! I was focused on my play, and I wanted him to stay away.
Then, I had my own kids, and one of my goals was for kids to become friends. Great friends.
I homeschooled Cory, Leslie, and Nathan from preschool through high school. They were with each other every day and had no choice but spend “quality time” together. They are grown now, ages 23, 20 and 18, and they are great friends. We enjoy the moments we spend together, and whenever we sit around and chat they share memory after memory of the ups and downs they had together as kids. (Even now I hear about trouble they got into that they hid from me all these years!)
And would you believe we're starting all over again? Through adoption we have three little ones in our house, ages 5, 3, and 2. I still have the same desire to raise children as best friends, but now I remember how very hard it is to . . . make . . . kids . . . get along. Best friends?! Sometimes I hope we'll survive through the day.
Yet even as my kids are getting used to their new brothers and sisters, here are some things I'm focusing on:
Set Guidelines. The first thing kids fight over is what's “fair.” When rules are set and enforced equally for everyone, then kids know there will be no playing favorites. When parents provide the same affection, discipline, and praise to each child, children have a chance to have positive relationships with each other.
Build a sense of “team.” Even from the first day our newly adopted kids joined our family, John and I told them that they were ours forever and were now part of the Goyer team. We encourage team spirit. We tell them we work together as teammates. We play like team members, too. We stick up for each other, and we turn to God to be our coach.
We focus on time together. We limit each child to one extra-curricular activity a year. We focus on family dinners. We have times of independent play, but we also have times when the kids play together with coloring or play dough or blocks. Yes, there will be fighting, but as my kids interact, I get the chance to guide their interactions.
We pray. We pray for wisdom. We pray for our kids' hearts to be turned to each other. We pray that God will give us wisdom. And when I turn to Him, He is always faithful to do just that.
What about you? How do you help your kids be best friends?
Tricia Goyer, TriciaGoyer.com
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