Moral Story

7 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Friends for Life

1. Never (ever, ever, ever) compare one child to another

First things first. Never ever compare one of your kids to another. In other words, don’t say things like, “Your sister never gets in trouble at school, why do you?” or “Why can’t you be more like Susie? She always keeps her room clean.”

Even if you don’t mean to do so, comparing your kids to each other makes them feel like you definitely have a favorite. That, more than anything, builds major resentment and causes a massive rift between your kids that can last well into their adulthood. For example, a 2015 Bringham Young University study found that parents’ comparisons can actually set the course for their childrens’ entire academic life and influence who they will become.

2. Encourage their mutual interests…

This is a two-part tip, hence the ellipses. First, definitely encourage mutual interests. If both Tommy and Susie love science fiction stories, start a family book club. If they both adore hiking, plan weekly (or even monthly, if time is tight) family trips to the local trail.

Basically, make sure they have an opportunity to indulge in their shared interests together. Along with giving them something that they both enjoy doing together now, you’re also making strong memories for them to reflect on later.

3. …but also teach your kids that it’s okay to have “nothing in common.”

Teach your kids that it’s absolutely fine to have “nothing in common.” Some of the best friendships involve two people who are polar opposites. Encourage your kids to cheer each other on, even if they have no idea what “love” means in tennis or what a “front handspring” is.

Remind them that even if they feel like they’ll never share a single interest, they do in fact have one thing in common: you! Which brings us to…

4. Let them “gang up” on you!

Kids love to gang up on us parents, don’t they? Even two children who rarely speak to each other make brilliant co-conspirators. While it’s frustrating to listen to a chorus of “please, please, please” after you’ve already said “no” to something, that act of ganging up on you is actually a terrific bonding experience for kids.

5. Eat together as a family as often as possible

You already know that studies show eating together as a family at least four times a week makes kids more successful as adults. It’s also a great way to teach your kids to be friends for life. During those meals, even kids who rarely spend time together throughout the rest of the day have a chance to catch up and learn more about each other’s passions.

In fact, these family meals are especially important for developing a bond between two kids who don’t have much in common. During the rest of the day, they can often feel like little more than tiny roommates sharing the same space and set of parents. Family meals help them actually feel like a family.

6. Don’t overreact to age-appropriate behavior.

Sometimes, kids might act in ways that seem unfriendly, such as not sharing, taking turns, or playing nicely. This is normal and part of their development. Instead of scolding or punishing your child, try to understand the reason behind their behavior and teach them better ways to handle the situation

7. Start with small groups.

If your child is shy or has trouble making friends, you can help them by arranging playdates or activities with one or two other kids. This can help your child feel more comfortable and confident in social situations. You can also help your child prepare for the playdate by suggesting some games or topics to talk about.

Here’s something that will make you feel better if you’re worried that your kids will never like each other. Growing up I used to fight with my sister so much! But now we are best friends!

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