Posted by Brooklyn Lindsey
Imagine a parent of a child you know approaching you.
“Can (insert their child’s name) and I speak with you and (insert your child’s name) privately for a minute?”
Maybe this kind of “confrontational” conversation raises your blood pressure? I know it raises mine.
Thoughts spiral and I become anxious:
“What did my child do?”
“How will it affect them?”
“How will it affect me?”
But what if situations like this are the perfect opportunity for us to give something very valuable to our children?
What if the temporary discomfort of having a friendship conversation could lead to a lifelong ability to navigate relationships in a healthy way?
Instead of simply mediating conflict, or avoiding it, we have a chance to coach our kids in lessons of love.
My daughter Mya is all about “friendship benches”—she wrote about it in Kindergarten. She thinks every place should have one. It’s somewhere you can feel “chunterbole” (comfortable) and you don’t have to worry. There’s even a “sign on it so you know it’s there.”
As a parent, you have the opportunity to help your kids sort out their friendships by offering this kind of place where their feelings can be felt and shared. You can be a friendship coach.
So, how do you coach someone you love when they have been hurt or have hurt someone else? What do you say when there is a recurring issue that doesn’t seem to have a solution or resolve? What do you do when the “thing” that happens keeps happening?
The temptation is to remove your child from the situation.
If instead, you coach your child through the situation, they will learn how to navigate through difficult relational experiences and develop lasting friendships.
If we were looking at a map made by pirates (don’t we always?) you would see on the margins phrases like, “Here Be Dragons!” describing the places outside an intended route. It’s a place outside of the comfort zone, the place where danger waits.
Our kids are going to face some friendship dragons, but there’s nothing outside of the comfort zone that you can’t walk through together. You know they’re there, you can avoid them sometimes, but there’s also a way through it if you end up there. You have a developmental map that they don’t have yet and as a parent, you can help them navigate.
Here are a few ways to be a great friendship coach to your kids.
Depending on the phase your child is in, these ideas can become simpler or more complex.
Coach your kid to . . .
Let the relational bumps in the road be times and places for your child to grow the ability to love others as they love themselves. It will take time, intentionality, patience, and probably more coffee than you can make in one pot.
But one day, you might wake up to a child telling you that they are working through something with a friend and they have navigated to a place of healing and truth.
And that, my friends, is the win.
About the Author:
Brooklyn has been a youth pastor since 2001. She has authored numerous books and projects and is a youth pastor at Highland Park Church of the Nazarene, her first priority. Second, she is a speaker who loves teaching from the Bible and leading people to live in response to God’s love. Brooklyn, while named after a city in New York, lives in the sunshine state with her husband, Coy, and their sweet girls, Kirra and Mya.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FRIENDS ARE RAISING JERKS
Posted by Jon Acuff
Is there anything harder than making friends with other couples?
When you first get married, you tend to run into two possible scenarios:
By “not get along” I don’t mean they have a hard time not fighting each other. To date, I’ve never said to my wife, “I’m so glad you and Samantha are good friends, but last time she was over, her husband hit me over the back with a chair. Fortunately, my core is ridiculous and I was able to absorb the blow, but that guy is the worst.”
By “not get along,” I mean that while the wives are catching up enthusiastically, the husbands stare at each other blankly for two awkward hours over dinner. Or vice versa.
But you struggle through, you do the work of finding friends you both love hanging out with. You even get a few that pass the ultimate test, going on vacation together! There are friends and then there are people you can actually stand long enough to spend a week with at the beach.
Things seem perfect, right up to the moment that kids are added to the mix. Now in addition to wives getting along with wives and husbands getting along with husbands, you have to worry if your kids will mix well. Worst of all is when your close friends raise jerks.
“Raise jerks” is a strong phrase that I used mostly because it’s fun and “have different parenting styles than your own” is such a boring collection of words. Right now, though, I promise that some of your friends have kids that you don’t want your kids to be around. Maybe they’re loose with discipline. Maybe their kid swears like a sailor which is surprising for a toddler. Maybe your friends overlook correctable behavior like “biting” with the laziest of all phrases, “That’s just kids being kids.”
Regardless of the reason, you’re suddenly finding it hard to hang out with your friends because their kids are jerks. How do you handle that? Here are a few ideas:
1. GET A BABYSITTER.
Who says you have to always have the kids connect? Don’t lose friends just because you think every time you hang out has to be a full family affair.
2. MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT OVERREACTING.
People always say you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics with people you don’t know. Let’s add “parenting styles” to that list. If you want to have the most awkward conversation in the history of mankind, try to force your personal parenting style on your friend. Make sure you’re not overreacting to what might really amount to just a difference in preferences.
3. TALK WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
If you have a real relationship, you can have a real conversation. If you don’t, there’s no amount of kid gloves you can use to broach the topic without a blow-up. But if the issues are bad enough that you’re going to lose the friendship, be honest and be vulnerable.
4. MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
Is this one extreme? It is, but maybe you hate confrontation as much as me. Maybe when you weigh your options, the only one that makes sense is to sell your house, quit your job and move to California. You can make new friends there. People are very open-minded and there are palm trees and stuff.
I feel like I really brought it on home with that fourth point.
I should turn this topic into a book because I didn’t even have time to address the surprise twist. What if you’re the couple who is raising a jerk? Oh no! The call is coming from inside the house!
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. Do the work of building couple friends. Parenting is a tough job and you’ll need other people who are on the journey with you.
Don’t overreact. Be honest. And remember there’s plenty of real estate on the west coast if nothing else works.
About the Author:
When he’s not charging his phone, New York Times Bestselling author, Jon Acuff, teaches a goal-setting course called “The 30 Days of Hustle.” To find out more, visit 30DaysofHustle.com.
SHARE YOUR KIDS
Posted by Melissa Thorson
I’m learning that friendship, as a parent, is even more life-giving (life-saving?) now than ever before. And this says a lot coming from a friendship-nostalgia-freak who has a file box of every single note I received in middle and high school organized by name of the sender. (If anyone under 25 is reading this, a “note” is a piece of paper that was meticulously decorated in milky gel pens and folded into the shape of a Chinese star, passed discreetly during Mrs. Lombardi’s lecture on hypotenuses.)
Friendship back then had a narrow span of depth—the easy stuff was choosing who you would go to lunch with on early release exam days. The “tough” stuff came when you consoled a friend who was dumped the week before prom. But now, in the days where many are drowning in diapers and debt and strained marriages and miscarriages, friends can be the lifeblood that help keep us going.
The trouble is, finding time and energy to invest in friendships when your time as a parent is so monopolized by caring for your kids. Amid the constant advice to prioritize our marriages, be present with our babies, and lean into our careers, little attention is given to focusing on our friendships. And truthfully, there’s something about trying to make new friends, as a parent, that seems a little more intimidating. Now we aren’t only putting ourselves on the line of potential rejection, but we feel as though we are being sized up on our parenting styles and children’s behavior.
It’s easier to settle for a second-rate sense of “community.” We can read a blog (ahem, thank you for reading this one) or join a secret Facebook group where we can post our most embarrassing questions about toddler bowel habits or decoding teenage text-speak while we unload the dishwasher in our sweats, ne’er to be seen by a non-family human that day. These connections are a great way to be reminded we aren’t alone, but they can’t replace authentic, face-to-face friendship. The kind that is built on a couch over coffee or a front porch over appetizers.
In our family, we are very fortunate to have doting grandparents and aunts and uncles–so many branches of the family tree that have helped us celebrate and mold our kids. But the blessing of our friends, who we now refer to as “aunts and uncles,” have helped our family tree thrive.
These friends entered the delivery room with teary eyes and beaming smiles within minutes of our babies’ arrivals and were some of the first arms my kids felt loved, though. They’ve shown up with hugs and comfort food and listening ears to help us process the miscarriage of our third child. They’ve been sideline cheerleaders who made our peewee soccer player feel like a FIFA star. They’ve told us they are proud of our children’s character (even though they’ve seen it at its worst). They’ve said “Good job, mama,” when I’ve skulked out of the room with a bucking toddler who needed some correction. They’ve allowed us into their most intimate marital and childrearing struggles and triumphs while loving us through ours. They’ve let us be “aunts and uncles” to their kids, too.
It can feel risky to introduce yourself to the parent wrangling a child into a puddle-jumper at the pool or cheering on the sideline of the soccer field. It can feel burdensome to come up with a menu and hide the clutter in order to invite people over for dinner when you’re just trying to survive the witching hour.
But these initial steps are what build acquaintances who become friends who become family. I’ve never met someone who didn’t want to be noticed and pursued. We are all busy, but someone has to take the first step to build adult friendship and family community.
Invite some neighbors over for a clean-out-the-fridge potluck before going on vacation. Have you child’s teammates and their parents over for hotdogs after the big game. No fancy prep needed–sometimes the more spontaneous and low-key the gathering is the more comfort it builds among the guests.
Aside from gaining our own friends, when we invite more adults into our homes and lives we can also be opening doors for powerful influence on our children. The neighbors you invite over for s’mores today might end up being the sounding board for your angsty teen tomorrow. Now, go text that person you’ve been hoping to get to know better and invite their family over for pizza.
About the Author:
Melissa is a former high school English teacher turned stay-at-home mom who traded in the essay grading for diaper changing . . . both of which offer their fair share of crap. She has always loved teenagers and feared little kids until she had her own. 90% of the joy in her life comes from her husband, Steve; her sons, Crosby and Miller; and her amazing extended family and friends. The rest comes from cooking and taking online personality assessments.