"How do I encourage my children to be close friends?"
We get this message a lot, and while I am still learning and growing in navigating close relationship, I looked back and considered the things my parents did to intentionally encouraged me to be best friends with my 10 siblings . . . as a child, teen, and now married adult.
Yes, even the ones that I could be so mad at we almost had another Cain and Abel situation on our hands.
We Did Things Together
Honestly, this is a big reason Elisha and I are homeschooling our children, and we both view it as the single biggest reason why we are both close friends with Elisha’s 9 and my 10 siblings.
Some families are still able to achieve close friendship by spending time on weekends, evenings, and holidays. But you have to be even more intentional if this is the case!
We Shared Rooms
Pillow talk is important. Fighting throughout the day then going to lay down in the bed next to the person you’re mad at, either makes you stay up and feel lame all night or forces talking through it. (Great preparation for marriage, wink.)
We Shared Friends
My parents intentionally hung out with other families a lot! We e didn’t have different friends in different classes or different sports. We shared family friends, and made memories together!
Fun Fact: Elisha’s two little sisters, Annie and Lilja, were my sister Kyla’s and my best friends.
My Parents Led By Example With Each Other
Daddy and Mother argued in front of us. Then sometimes transferred to arguing in their room. But they ALWAYS came out reconciled and unified. They apologized to us if one of them had publicly disrespected the other, and they reaffirmed their love of us and each other. As a young child, I saw the true pain or frustration in their eyes, and watched it be replaced by peace, love, and closeness.
I wanted that.
It looked like it took hard work, but I was willing to put in that work when I felt bitter or resentful toward a sibling.
Fighting, Disagreeing, and Arguing is Normal
My parents never panicked when I fought tooth and nail with Kyla over who was going to wear the wide-legged-thrift-store pants to the museum. (Plot twist: I did. And I never felt like such a loser knowing that those pants came at the cost of so much stress.) Fighting is to be expected and conflict is a part of life.
It prepares us for speaking up and disagreeing with spouses. Future friends. Or having hard conversations with coworkers.
Resentment, Bitterness, and Grudges were Not Allowed
I have two sisters I am A LOT alike. This made relationship hard when we were growing up because our shared weaknesses would get under each other’s skin. My parents never forced us to love hanging out, but if they sensed us not talking or giving the other girl the cold shoulder, they approached us and said we needed to resolve it.
Either my mom or dad would often moderate hard conversations between two siblings when we were in middle school and high school, making sure the fight stayed fair, and cutting in only when someone was being trampled or disrespected.
I remember disagreement after disagreement, ending in tears, softening of hearts, and a giant group hug. And again, I owe a lot of this “practice” to how Elisha and I now reconcile in marriage.
We Went to the Bible
There is so much to be said about proverbial wisdom, and we read a proverb every morning at the breakfast table until we could finish every verse in a passage. A simple thing my parents would often do is have one of us older children (10 and up) read the chapter, then ask one question and make one comment pertaining to the passage.
“A brother wronged, is harder to be won than a city.”
“Forgive 70 x 7.”
“If you don’t forgive, I won’t forgive you. - God”
“Take out the beam in your own eye before addressing someone else’s.”
All these passages helped us navigate relationship with Christ’s wisdom in practical areas of life!
Understanding the Gospel
Our culture talks a lot about what we deserve. But really, we deserve eternal damnation. The only thing that separates us from the guilt and burden of our sin is Christ’s blood that covers us in his righteousness. Praise God! As such, we are indebted to him and get to walk free in the way he calls us to walk . . . forgiving others. Realizing we all have fallen short of his glory. And living according to the structure he lays out in scripture which is unity. Love. And Relationship is powerful when it comes to unifying with a sibling.
My parents Led by Example with Their Siblings
My parents have some wonderful siblings and in-laws. But even wonderful people can be unlovable at times. They also have been deeply wronged by those closest to them. Like BIG TIME. They have been Lied about. Slandered. And Hurt—by family.
Watching Mommy work through bitterness creeping up in her heart and completely forgive a loved one after months of seeking God and crying out for him to change her heart will always stick with me. I wanted her to hold on to her anger. I thought she deserved to be upset. But she chose forgiveness and reaped joy and reconciliation!
My father has done the same thing. Loving over and over family that has wronged him.
I wasn’t privy to many relational challenges they faced, but I do know that any time I saw them interact they chose relationship over being right. And I wanted that peace.
We Weren’t Allowed to Isolate Ourselves
Ipods, iphones, and ipads were not allowed on long car trips, or in bedrooms. This created so much opportunity for visiting, singling, laughing, and building memories together.
My Parents Led by Example (Again) With Us
I can’t tell you how many times my parents asked forgiveness from ME . . . when I was being a brat to boot! I experienced first hand that asking for forgiveness wasn’t a sign of weakness. And admitting you were wrong actually made the other person respect you more. Humbling myself to my siblings still is something I have to do, and I am so grateful Daddy and Mother showed that holding on to pride only kills healthy friendship and unity.
Nothing about this blog is short, haha. But to sum it up, being best friends with siblings is more than just a boatload of childhood memories and laughs. It is an incredible breeding ground for developing maturity in all relationship, and it’s a worthy goal even as adults!
Siblings will always be there —regardless how much we differ — and future friendships, marriages, and children, will be blessed as we learn alongside our children to work toward walking in close relationship.
Praying our Lord and Savior richly blesses your home!
P.S. Thank you Kyla, Kelsey, Baylor, Karaline, Kimberly, Kloe, Barrington, Kinsey, Bentley and Kordelia for your patience and love to this day! I deeply love and admire you all.
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