Brothers and Best Friends: 5 Things I Want My Teen Sons to Remember to Stay Close

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Brothers and Best Friends: 5 Things I Want My Teen Sons to Remember to Stay Close

Written By: Jessica Manning

Fifteen years ago, I handed my newborn son to his two-year-old brother and introduced him by saying, “This is your best friend.” Within a week, when I asked my older son who his best friend was, he answered by saying his brother’s name…

I did the same with both boys when my third son was born. They all knew they were each other’s best friends before they could comprehend what it even meant.

When I’d hear them laughing on the trampoline, cheering each other on in a backyard football game, or pretending to be ninjas fighting bad guys in our driveway, I’d proclaim fondly, “You guys are best friends!” My neighbors probably heard me yell that phrase more times than they count. 

Call it corny (because I know it IS), but I still throw that phase out there from time to time even though my boys are teenagers.

When I hear them talking quietly about something they don’t want me to know, or when they’re laughing about a reel I don’t understand, I just can’t help myself – “You guys are best friends.” Be still my heart – there is nothing sweeter to me than seeing my kids enjoy one another.

Now that they’re teenagers, though… (you know… kind of moody and impatient like most teenagers are), I worry that they’re not holding true to the “best friends” bond I worked so hard to create. 

In fact, there are moments when I’m certain my teens look at each other and think, “I don’t like who you are,” and it breaks my heart. I’m not talking about petty infractions like locking the bathroom door in the morning so one of their brothers can’t get ready for school while the other one showers, or when one hijacks the basement TV with no regard for anyone else’s preferences. I’m talking about a more mature awareness of their personality differences.

At some point, all siblings have an epiphany about who each other is separate from being their brother or sister. And, because siblings have a distinctive ability to bring out the worst in each other, I worry that their teenage brains will singularly define the other as selfish, quick-tempered, overly sensitive, egotistical, or whatever else drives them crazy about each other at this time in their lives.

Those of us who have brothers and sisters we love dearly know what an absolute gift it is to call them friends. Perhaps we can all agree that there are times in life when siblings fill a role that others simply can’t. Hence, the reason I’ve admittedly tried to strengthen my boys’ bond from day one.

As a mother, one of my biggest fears is that my boys will become adults who genuinely dislike one another. The rational side of me knows this happens far too often in families. But I pray the love amongst my boys will overshadow their (hopefully, temporary teenager) disdain, especially as they mature and learn to see and appreciate the good in each other.

As my middle son enters his freshman year of high school, (my oldest will be a junior), I’ve asked my boys to take some ownership of holding tight to the brotherly bond they’ve created (even if it has been a bit rocky at times), having each other’s back on the tumultuous high school road ahead and always remembering what a privilege it is to have a brother. 

Brothers and Best Friends: 5 Things I Want My Teen Sons to Remember to Stay Close


Here are five things I’ve asked my sons to always remember; if you have teens close in age (boys or girls), perhaps you can relate. 

1. Be Each Other’s Champion

My kids have good friends, but I’m not sure any of them feel a sense of pride for my kids when they succeed. However, I am certain my boys are truly excited for each other when things go their way.

I want them to acknowledge this – that they might be the only kids in the entire high school truly rooting for each other. I want them to be each other’s first choice (along with me and their dad, of course) when they need advice or a shoulder to lean on. I want them to be each other’s loudest cheerleader on the sidelines, and to speak positively and proudly about each other. If they can give each other a leg-up in some way, I expect them to recognize that it’s them or bust. 

2. Protect Each Other at All Costs

Spending a lifetime together gives our kids the most intimate view of each other’s idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, embarrassing moments, etc. I expect my boys to honor each other by never purposely embarrassing each other.

They know that they’re not to share who the other is crushing on, times they’ve been in trouble, a test they may have failed, or vulnerabilities they’ve shared in the safety of our home. Saving face is a matter of respect, and there should be an element of honor in brotherhood (or any sibling relationship).

3. Have Empathy for Each Other

As my boys have gotten older, I’ve been intentional about letting them know when their brothers are hurting. I’m convinced that invoking empathy strengthens their bonds because they have to recognize their feelings for this person who can infuriate them like none other. I’ve found that when it comes down to it, most siblings are innately protective of each other; sometimes it just takes a little prodding. 

4. Have Fun with Each Other!

At a time in their lives when friends can oftentimes be more important than family ties, I want my boys to enjoy each other, hang out together on occasion, and intentionally strive to foster and nurture the bond they share.

Whether it’s running out for fast food together, watching a game on TV, or meeting up at the high school football game, I want them to keep their brothers close at heart because that relationship will likely mean far more to them in years to come.

5. Be Grateful to Have Each Other

I wrote a post recently about how teenage boys speak to each other – constant razzing, belittling, mocking, etc. What a gift it is for our kids to be able to come home and be exactly who they are without fear of being ridiculed.

Both my older boys have had times recently where they’ve had to assess the depth of their current friendships with other kids. There’s a certain inevitable loneliness for many teens when they realize the friends they thought were their people maybe aren’t. However, sometimes these difficult friendship moments highlight that having a built-in person (i.e. a brother or sister who’s always by your side) isn’t so bad after all. 

So, yes, call my prodding to keep my boys close corny, (or even a tad manipulative), but my intentions to foster loving relationships amongst my boys are for their benefit. High school can be hard and they’re going to need each other. Adulting is hard and they’re going to need each other.

Nothing would make this mama’s heart happier than knowing my sons are brothers AND best friends. I can see them getting closer as they age, as most siblings naturally do. I just pray there is a day they choose each other, because I’m confident that of all their current friendships, their brothers’ friendships are the ones worth betting on.


About Jessica Manning

Jessica is a high school counselor with over 20 years of experience working with teenagers. She earned an M.A. in school counseling and a B.A. in English and secondary education. Jessica is married to a high school principal and has three teenage boys; her current life revolves around all things teen. When not working or following her sons’ sporting events, Jessica appreciates any opportunity she gets to veg at home with her family and her dog, Phyllis. 


If you enjoyed reading, “Brothers and Best Friends: 5 Things I Want My Teen Sons to Remember to Stay Close” here are a few other posts you might like:

As a Mom of Four Teen Daughters, Here’s What I’ve Learned About Fostering a Strong Sisterly Bond

20 Reasons Why Big Sisters Make the Best Lifelong Friends

7 Powerful Lessons Every Sister Can Teach Her Younger Brother

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