One thing I love about having boys who are close in age is when one of them naturally mentors the other. My oldest son is very level-headed, and has more than once offered his younger brother wisdom beyond his years.
Sometimes when I head towards their bedroom late at night to say goodnight, I will overhear a conversation that is worth stopping in my tracks to…well, just listen to for a moment. (I’ve let them know I do it, so that isn’t really eavesdropping, right? :))
One of my favorite such listening moments will stick with me for a long time. Apparently, the younger son was struggling with a bit of insecurity. He wasn’t sure he fit in well enough in his social group, and was opening up to his brother about his feelings. He wanted to make sure people liked him. He wondered why so-and-so always called other friends to hang out, and didn’t call him very often. He just wanted to believe that people liked him.
My mommy-instinct was to jump in and try to solve all of his problems. I wanted to reassure him of how important he was and even find some creative way to find out why so-and-so wasn’t calling…surely, he must realize how much fun my boy was to hang out with! (not biased at all, I know!) But before I could come to the rescue, I heard my older son handling things even better than I could.
He didn’t feel sorry for his brother, or tell him what to do. Instead, he shared from his own experience: “What I try to do,” he said, “is just be nice to everyone.” He went on, “Even if people don’t think you’re cool right away, if you’re kind to everyone, eventually people will realize it, and they will like you. Everyone likes people who are kind and build others up, so I try to do that. I just try to be nice to everyone, all of the time.”
I smiled and nodded.
“Be nice to everyone all of the time.”
Now there’s an idea we should all try.
I have watched this older son interact with people, and I see his method paying off. He has never been the most popular kid, and since he is quieter and homeschooled, he doesn’t have the huge group of friends that some kids might. But as the years go on, I see that he is being called on more when kids are looking for a real friend. People are drawn to him. He is trusted. People ask him for help or advice or to just hang out. And no wonder–He is truly nice. All of the time.
Sometimes this world can be a very hard place, and we need to teach our kids to have some guards up. Yet I hope we can also steer our sons to some very foundational truths, given to us by the greatest teacher and mentor, Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or, in the simple words of a humble teenager, “Be nice to everyone, all of the time.”
A few books that I have found helpful… (amazon affiliate links:) Tender Warrior: Every Man’s Purpose, Every Woman’s Dream, Every Child’s HopeBringing Up BoysShepherding a Child’s Heart