“Nanner, nanner, fanner, I got the toy!” Then the little rascal ran away. Even a family team has some “technical fouls” they need to work out. We have a standing rule in our home: If you cannot treat your sister or brother like your best friend, then you cannot play with other friends. Our children know they are expected to be best friends.
Empowering the Underdog
I help our children’s relationships along by empowering the picked-on child. When one of our children is being teased, I will remind them of the “best-friend rule.” Then, the next time the teaser asks me for something, I say, “You were teasing your brother, so your brother gets to decide.” Once my son Connor was teasing my daughter Serena, and she began to cry. We had planned to go out as family for ice cream later that night, and my husband quickly replied, “Connor, if you continue to tease, you will have to stay home with Mommy while Serena and I get ice cream.”
My husband and I already have an arrangement that if a child is not behaving, one of us will stay home with him or her. So we were not threatening with something we would not follow through with. We did not want to reward bad behavior, so this seemed like a fair consequence if the teasing continued. I said, “Serena gets to choose whether you go or not.” I reminded Serena that next time it might be Connor’s turn to choose for her. At first she said no—probably just because she could. Then she began to giggle and gave a big “yes.” Allow the underdog to even the score.
Keeping Friends in Perspective
If you nurture early relationships among your children, the seeds of friendship can endure through eternity. In high school I had friends who I thought would be my best friends forever. I do have casual contact with them; we call each other when we are expecting a baby or have important news, and we send each other Christmas cards.
But the people I spend the most time with are my own brothers and sisters. They truly are my best friends. When our children cannot get along with one another, I do not let them play with friends, because their relationships with their siblings are more important.
During a visit to the hospital to get some testing done, I had an eye-opening conversation with a technician. After a few minutes, we discovered that we knew many of the same people. Yes, we do live in a small world. I talked with him about his family, and he said he was not close to any of his siblings. He said, “I wouldn’t exactly eat dinner with them on Sundays.” He was not really sure what his brothers were doing. I was so thankful for the relationships I have with my siblings.
In another example, my little sister was taking a college psychology class. The teacher asked, “How many of you keep in touch with your siblings?” She was one of only a few people who raised their hands. She explained to the class that she has six siblings and talks to them regularly. The others in the class asked questions like, “What do you say to all of them?” and “How big is your phone bill?” She is thankful for the relationship she has with all of her brothers and sisters.
I also encourage our children to have best-friend cousins along with their best-friend siblings. Neighbor friends will come and go, but siblings and cousins will last forever. The cousins have especially been important, as my daughter has begged for a little sister who has not arrived. I tell her she has cousins who can be like a sister. It is nice to know our children have so many automatic best friends. A neighbor friend asked my son who his best friends were, and he automatically started listing his cousins. Having early relationships with siblings and cousins is a great way to make eternal best friends.
One of my sisters was distraught because a neighbor called her daughter “rambunctious.” This particular neighbor family was shy and quiet. I told my sister she cannot compare apples to oranges. All children have different personalities, and with our gene pool, a shy and quite child would be a rare, though not unwelcome, anomaly. I assured my sister that my daughter would always be best friends with her daughter. We have unconditional love for every person in our extended and immediate family, regardless of the state they are now experiencing or letting us experience.
If you did not guess by now, I got this rule from my own mom. She used to tell us we could not go anywhere until we were best friends. It worked for my siblings and me. We are all very close, so I will always have six best friends to support me: my brothers and sisters.
Making it Work
Put your family best-friend skill to work. Here are some ways to do so:
Make a list of good qualities you have. Focusing on your good qualities can help you be a better friend. Make a list of your best qualities and put it somewhere that is easy to find. Help your children make a list of positive qualities they have. Post the list on your refrigerator. Do a small act of service for a best friend in your family.
Encourage your family to be best friends. Do not let outside friends or social agendas (dancing, soccer practice, recitals, and so on) rule your home. Make sure each member in the family is being kind to one another and having a “best-friend attitude.” Put a picture in each of your children’s rooms that shows them with a parent or a sibling. Update the picture often. If you cannot find a frame, just tape a picture to the wall or mirror. In my son’s room is a picture of him and his dad. At the bottom I noted, “Daddy loves me.” This helps remind him how much he is loved in our home.
Family Teaching Activities
Here are some activities that will help your kids learn what being a best friend is all about. You can use them for family home evening, or just to reinforce your teachings at any point.
Materials needed: paper and pencil
Scripture: John 15:3
As a family, think of all the qualities of a true friend. Write them down on a piece of paper. Then have each person share what family member he or she thinks demonstrates a lot of those qualities. Have each person in the family write a letter to another person in the family. Help younger children write their letters. Explain that being a good friend is important. Have each person decide on one quality he or she will improve. Close by sharing an experience about how a family best friend helped you in a time of need.
Hyrum and Joseph Smith
Materials needed: None.
Scripture: Galatians 6:2
Tell the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith. Explain that they were best friends. Even though Hyrum was older, he always loved and admired his younger brother. Tell the story of when Hyrum and Joseph were escaping from the mob by crossing the river. Emma Smith sent a letter to Joseph begging him to come back. Joseph knew he would die. He begged Hyrum not to go with him. Hyrum insisted and told Joseph he would not leave his side. As they were being marched to Carthage jail, again Joseph pleaded with Hyrum not to come. Hyrum stayed with his brother and showed the utmost loyalty. Hyrum was killed at Carthage jail when the mob attacked; soon after that Joseph was killed. Talk about how Hyrum and Joseph were best friends. How did Hyrum and Joseph show each other their love? What can you do to be best friends in your family?