Treat Them Like Friends

A few years back, I got in to a discussion/disagreement with my younger sister. We argued back and forth and back and forth – as we’re both strong willed (that’s code for stubborn) until my mother, who was visiting had enough. She said, “I don’t like it when you two argue about things like this. You guys get along so well, I’d hate for this to drive a wedge in between the two of you.”

I was shocked. My sister, Krystal, was confused. Krystal said, “What are you talking about, we’d never say anything over the line or hateful – we’re just disagreeing on this point. We love each other and wouldn’t say anything that would cause that kind of problem.”

Krystal was right. I like Krystal, a lot. I wouldn’t say anything to her that I wouldn’t say to a good friend and I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t do it to me either. As a matter of fact, I have this kind of relationship with all my brothers as well. Now, I’m not saying I agree with everything they do or say, I’m just saying I respect them.

Think about that for a minute. I wouldn’t say anything to her (my sister, a close family member) that I wouldn’t say to a good friend and she is the same way with me.

Sometimes I am shocked when I hear husbands and wives or adult brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of adult parents say to each other things that they would NEVER say to a friend. Why is that? It’s because if you EVER said some of the things I hear people say to their family – to your friends – they would NO LONGER be your friends.

Here’s my point. If you wouldn’t say it to a good friend for fear of losing that friendship, why in the world would you EVER say it to someone in your family, or someone you’re supposed to love? Is it because you THINK that your family won’t ever DECIDE to NOT be your family? Is it because they DON’T have a choice and MUST be your family, but friends DO have a choice and MAY NOT choose to be your friend?

Well, you may be right that your family won’t ever DECIDE to NOT be your family, but consider these two points.

Point 1: Many families DREAD it, when they have to get together. They decide going in, whom to avoid, where the drama lies and sometimes even root and plan for the demise of their familial relationships. They’ll probably never admit it, but you know it’s true. A family event is not a place of happiness and joy. It’s an event you attend because you feel obligated to be there due to pressure and guilt. Does any of this sound familiar?

Point 2: I want my children to WANT to be around me and my wife after they’re grown up. I want my children to WANT to be around their brothers and sisters because they are friends with each other and us. I want my family to LOOK FORWARD to times when we can get together because we’ll experience HAPPINESS.

Let me be clear here. I’m not suggesting you treat your children like friends and absolve yourself from the responsibility of raising your kids. I’m not saying there isn’t a time when discipline needs to be enforced, or consequences need to happen for wrong choices. What I AM saying is this.

Be respectful of each other – be respectful of your spouse and your children – especially your spouse and your children.

When my two oldest sons, Alek and Zak, were 10 and 8 years old, we had a family meeting where we decided that if you wouldn’t say it to a friend… you shouldn’t say it to a family member. It changed the way our household felt almost immediately. Contention dropped, our kids started getting along better, my wife and I noticed our relationship improved and our relationship with our kids improved.

The change in the way our home ran was dramatic. We respected them more, they respected us more and they respected each other more. I’m happy to say now, that Alek and Zak, 18 and 16 years old, have as much fun together as good buddies. I’m telling you I almost cried the first time they went on a double-date. Hey, who goes on a double-date with their brother? Good friends, that’s who.

And the truth is, I DID cry (inside only, of course) the first time my oldest son, Alek, declined to go out with friends so he could stay home with my wife and I, and Zak, to watch a movie together one evening.

This may sound a bit off – but I can guess what some of you may be thinking. “I should be able to tell the TRUTH to my family members and they SHOULD BE able to take it.” And if you ARE thinking that, I have a few things for you to consider.

First, maybe YOU SHOULD be able to tell “the truth” and maybe THEY SHOULD be able to take it. But quite a bit of the time YOUR VERSION of “the truth” and THEIR VERSION of “the truth” is different – and hearing your version of the truth may sometimes – okay, almost all the time – cause contention. And the REAL TRUTH is that rarely can anyone or should anyone have to “TAKE IT” from you. Can YOU “take it” from others? That’s what I thought. Not too many of us can.

And when is the last time that somebody criticized you and it actually worked to make you a better person? That’s what I thought, again, me neither.

Second, consider a much better alternative – in my opinion – and that is to focus on EDIFICATION. The definition of which is: instruction or enlightenment, especially when it is morally or spiritually uplifting.

Imagine that? Imagine if during your communications you uplift each other, or you try to build each other up? Can you imagine what would happen to your relationship with your family members if you did that? That’s right, they’d reciprocate – they always do. THAT’S what you do with your “friends”, right? Of course, you focus on their strengths and forgive them of their faults – at least if you want to keep them as friends.

Decide today to talk to your spouse and children with the same respect you’d talk to a friend – a friend you’d want to keep. Decide today that you won’t say something to them that you wouldn’t say to a friend or you’d lose them as a friend. Decide today that your children and spouse have a CHOICE, because they do. At some point, they will decide if they want to be with you and have fun and experience happiness…

OR… if they HAVE to be with you and your family and will only do it because they feel obligated to be there due to pressure and guilt.

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