“Mama, something happened at school today. A problem with a friend.”
My girl’s eyes fill with tears, and out pours the story.
Honestly? We haven’t just had this conversation once; we’ve had it many times. And it almost always comes up in those quiet, just-before-bed moments when we’re alone and her mind is finally uncluttered enough to look back on the day.
More honesty? I treasure these conversations. I don’t want my girl to face issues at school, but I’m thankful she’s willing to share the real stuff with me. To invite me in to her friend world and let me speak into it.
I’ve learned to slow down and lean into these conversations. To not just jump in with my pre-loaded Mama Wisdom, my two-minute, let’s-fix-this-fast-before-bedtime advice. I’ve learned to dig deeper with questions like these:
How did it start? Did something else happen before this situation happened? Does this kind of thing happen often?
What do you think the other person was feeling?
What did you say? And what else did you say?
What did she say? And what else did she say?
How did you feel afterward? How do you feel now?
What do you think you should do from here?
Questions like these draw our children out. They help us get a fuller picture of what’s really going on with their friendships. They help us not jump to conclusions before we uncover the whole story. When we feel angry because we think our kid was wronged, clarifying questions can help us uncover the other side of the story, discovering ways our child may have unintentionally contributed to a problem or exacerbated a conflict. Clarifying questions may help us discover some other factors at play beyond the one argument: maybe a bully keeps pushing our child’s buttons, or a gossip-loving friend keeps pulling them into drama, or our child is being tempted by the pull of popularity.
Conversations like this give us opportunities to teach our kids social skills, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence. They also give us opportunities to shepherd our children’s hearts into godly ways of thinking, speaking, and acting. Whatever the situation—whether the problem is our child’s fault or not, whether it’s an easy fix or not—we can always apply a scripture to the situation and invite God into the conversation with prayer. Opening the Bible in real-world conversations teaches our kids that God’s Word is not just a book we read at church; it is truly useful—it has real meaning, power, and help for their everyday life. And praying about friend issues teaches our kids that God cares about their daily problems and relationships, and that even when we can’t change or fix a situation, or we don’t know what to do, we can invite God to work… then watch what he does.
Here are some scriptures our family has found helpful in various friendship situations:
When your kid has a gossipy friend group or needs to resist the temptation to gossip:
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Proverbs 18:8
Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20
When your kid needs to be patient and forgiving toward a friend (or sibling!) who still has some growing to do:
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
When your kid feels picked on by a kid who is jealous of them or has it out for them, try reading this verse, then putting it into practice by regularly praying for the other child:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
When your kid needs to keep a healthy distance from a “friend” who keeps hurting or manipulating them, these verses are helpful:
Bad company corrupts good character. 1 Corinthians 15:33
There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
A few thoughts on this passage: God doesn’t want us to be self-righteous, but there are times we need to stay away from harmful situations or people. We don’t need to be besties with bullies or kids who are habitually dishonest and destructive. As parents, let’s teach our kids to show compassion and grace toward children who are struggling, but also help them determine how and when it’s time to draw boundaries in friendship. (And when we aren’t sure what to do, we can pray for wisdom and invite input from other godly parents.)
“Do not give to dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
There’s some debate over what, exactly, Jesus meant by this metaphor. But we can encourage our kids not to repeatedly offer the pearls of their trust and friendship to kids who are cruel and manipulative—kids who abuse their trust and kindness. We can and should pray for those children to change, and we can always be kind, but we can also keep a healthy distance.
I hope these clarifying questions and scriptures prove helpful to your family as you equip your children to cultivate healthy friendships and as you teach them to bring God into every area of life. What a privilege and joy it is to shepherd our children’s hearts in faith and in friendship!
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