Monday, February 6, 2017

Our family motto: We are a best friends family

On the wall next to our kitchen table, I recently added our family motto to the wall with some of my favorite photographs...

Our family motto came to be a few years ago. Ben first heard of the phrase that eventually became our family motto when he attended a meeting with our bishop, who was talking about his childhood. Our bishop said that his mother would often tell him and his brothers that they were part of a "best friends family." Ben was really struck by this saying, and we talked about making it our own, and making it a goal for our family. Since then it has become something we strive for and talk about daily.

Why I love this motto

1. While there are many great goals a family can work towards, what matters? Yes, I'd be the first to tell you service as a family is a great goal, or that always giving your best effort is an invaluable life lesson, but your family relationships are way more important than anything you could ever do for anyone else, or even your own efforts at personal excellence. Would you be proud of your son who was a star basketball player but a jerk to his brother? Would you be proud of your daughter who spent a lot of time at the rest home but then belittled her sister? I like this motto because it puts what matters most at the forefront of your mind.

2. Your home is a holy place. I truly believe your house should be a special place for your children to come home to. More than it looking nice, I want our home to be a refuge for our kids from a world that is sometimes mean, selfish, or without dignity. Within the walls of a home like that, it only makes sense that friendship would abide there. If it's a safe haven, make it a friendly place for everyone who enters.

2. Families are like a laboratory for the world: if you can get along with somebody who's constantly in your space, getting under your skin, you can get along with anybody. Here in your laboratory you can practice being kind, try out giving the benefit of the doubt, or learn to love when someone who thinks differently than you. Give these gifts to the people you love the very most, and don't just reserve them for strangers and acquaintances. One time I got to speak in a Young Women's class and they asked me what they could do to prepare for marriage and having a family. I said work on getting along with your siblings. So often we let our family be the place where we relax our standards of kindness and civility, and then those we love bear the brunt of it. I think if you can figure out how to be kind to people in that "comfortable" place, you'll be able to get along with anybody, and your children's future families will also majorly benefit!

3. It improves the mother's mood. Okay, this is maybe a little bit selfish (but the saying does go, "if mamma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"), but having a family motto where the point is for the kids to get along, if it actually works, can do wonders to improve the mother's stress level, productivity, and happiness at home. That's a win in my book. (And, I believe, a mother who is happy at home is the precursor to having children who get along. Just what I've experienced!)

4.  Fostering your kids' friendships with each other will enrich their life forever. Even as you move on and move away from your family, these are relationships you will always have. Even after your parents die, you will still have your siblings, your family. Wouldn't you want to have siblings, the people you charter this life with, who are also your best friends? Wouldn't you want parents who are trying to foster that?

How we are trying to live it

I don't think best friends families are born, they are made. I believe all children are born with a kind, sweet spirit that loves others. But it's up to the parents to foster that and make that more important, more "normal" than back-biting, being unkind, or putting others down.

I have met families that just seem to get along and their kids hardly bicker. WHAT is their secret sauce? I don't know, but here's a couple of things we came up with to try to make this dream of ours a reality.

1. It starts with the parents. All I know is that this little "experiment" of ours would never work if it weren't for who Ben is. Ben embodies kindness, giving other people the benefit of the doubt, and using words for good. It doesn't matter what "programs" you put in place, if the parents don't live it (and I mean really live it, down to your core, and not just put on an act in front of your kids), your kids never will. Maybe you're not married to a saint like I am, but you be one. I'm trying to be one, too. I have to say though, this little "program" we have going on to help our kids get along is really strong because Ben and I are both on board, independent of each other.

2. Stop mean words in their tracks. We don't allow our children to talk unkindly about their siblings, participate in name-calling, sarcastically make fun of their siblings, or say they are better than one of their siblings.  And we've been doing this since our oldest could talk, it's just a part of our family culture. Do they fight? Absolutely, nobody's perfect. I like to think we break up less fights and word abuse, but yes, we still do. But we stop mean words immediately. After a while kids start to realize what they are going to get away with at your house, what they can and cannot say. Afterwards, we always remind them that so-and-so is their best friend, or ask them if they would say the same thing about their best friend. I love a phrase a friend of mine shared from her family growing up, "Your name is safe in our house."

3. We let our kids know who their best friends are. Cheyenne might tell me so-and-so's her best friend and I will correct her, "No she's your second best friend. Who's your first best friend?" It can be easy to put your siblings in a different "category" and therefore treat them like less, or end up being more loyal to someone who could be out of your life in five years. Friends are great, but they are nothing compared to your flesh and blood. Your kids can have live-in best friends if you help them see the good in their own siblings.

4. We let our kids know we think kindness and goodness is their normal behavior. Sometimes when Cheyenne is being particularly grouchy or mean, one of us will say, "Where's our nice Cheyenne? We just want our girl who smiles and laughs a lot to come back!" We've been amazed to see how motivated kids are to be what their parents want them to be, especially when their parents compliment them. This is no parenting "trick," though, she really is a happy girl. But I don't think she's very much happier than any other kid, we simply choose to see it and bring it out of her.

5. Help your kids figure out why they aren't getting along. Because getting along is relatively normal for my kids, we can see when there's an increase in fighting, usually during transition times in our family. One time Cheyenne and Delaney were fighting more than normal. After talking with the girls together and trying to help them come up with a solution, we eventually found out that Cheyenne felt left out of the siblings because she is the only one gone at school all day. I don't know that this one is permanently "solved," but it seemed like having this little talk where the girls got to express their feelings to each other helped. The next Saturday after the talk, Cheyenne took her brother and her sister on a little adventure outside on her own accord (something she likes to do), and we spent some time that afternoon talking about why she wanted to do that and how happy we all were to have the "old Cheyenne" back.

6. We express gratitude when our kids get along. One thing I learned from my dad as I was growing up was that he would express gratitude to me for making right choices, even doing things I was "supposed" to do like clearing the table or doing my chores. I've tried to make a habit to thank my children when I notice they are being kind to each other or playing nicely together. I thank them when they make selfless choices or choose their sibling's happiness over their own, and then give them a big hug and tell them how proud I am of them, and ask them how it makes them feel. Actually, my kids have taken to telling me whenever they make a good choice, and how happy it makes them feel.

I don't know if these things will make a difference, or if this is all lip service, but we certainly are trying to create an environment where love abides, and where we are a best friends family. There's a likely chance I don't know anything and our kids/family will turn out "just like everybody else's." But it sure is a worth goal, isn't it?! Shoot for the stars!! Maybe our ideas will help you think of some things you could do to increase the love in your home!

P.S.-- We got these awesome wooden words for our motto from Woodland Manufacturing


  1. What a great motto! My kids range in age from 8-18 and, while they have their moments, I always feel so blessed that they get along so well. I just want them to grow up and like each other! I don't know if I would go as far as to say that any of them are "best friends" at this point, but there is very little fighting between them and they genuinely enjoy each other's company. In the realm of teenagers, I will surely not complain! Maybe the best friends thing will come later in life. :) But I do love that you have such a deliberate plan in place for helping your kids learn to love each other. All of your ideas are spot on! Thanks for your words.

    1. Thanks Lynnette! So nice to hear a success story! :) You've given me hope. I'm a little worried about the teenage years so it's nice to see how you are navigating it and have your example. Thanks for your nice comment :)