Throughout my parenting years, especially when the kids were babies, there have always been people willing to give me advice, even if I haven’t asked for it. If I listened to everyone, I would either dread the coming years with my kids or wish away the time I had with them when they were younger.
Can you relate to any of these statements?
- It gets easier the older they get.
- Boys are hard when they are young but easy as teenagers.
- Girls are easy when kids but are hard work when they become teenagers.
- Just wait until they hit the teenage years!
What are your thoughts?
I have found that, yes, each stage has its challenges, but they are completely different and no one stage is easier than another. It’s just different.
Five practical tips I can offer parents are:
- Enjoy each stage
Enjoy where your child is at at the moment. Time goes so fast and before you know it, your children will be grown up. Enjoy this time with them at whatever age they are. Don’t be wishing they were a bit older. Be careful what you say. If you call the toddler years the ‘terrible two’s’, don’t be dismayed when your toddler has tantrums and screaming fits and you find it becoming true. As our eldest was becoming a teenager, I found myself one day saying that I was ‘dreading the teenage years’. I quickly repented and decided that I would always say that the teenage years were great and, not surprisingly, I have found it to be true. The teenage years are great. Sure, there are little ‘hiccoughs’ along the way but nothing huge. Enjoyment is a state of mind, so choose to enjoy the moment you are in currently.
When my kids were babies, I can remember my aunt encouraging me to persevere at breastfeeding them for the hour long feeds they required. Aunty Margaret encouraged me by sharing how it is a privilege to be able to sit for an hour with my feet up cuddling my baby whilst I gave them their much needed nutrition and that in years to come, I would not have the same opportunity to be able to rest and cuddle my children for an hour at a time with so many other demands on my time that mums have. She said that it was a pity that some mothers who bottle fed found it easier and quicker to prop their baby’s bottle up so that the baby could drink from the bottle without needing to be held whilst drinking. This gave me a whole new perspective on those times when breastfeeding and fostered a love and enjoyment for that time.
- Don’t compare
Comparison is never good. Just focus on yourself and your kids and find ways to make the most of loving them and helping them become all they are meant to be. Enjoy your time with them. Re comparing, don’t compare one child with another child, your kids with other people’s kids (as you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors) and also the stage your kids are at. Comparison really means that you are envious of something else and not happy with what you have.
- Each stage is different
With babies, you seem to be constantly busy, maybe pushed to physical exhaustion. You need to be doing everything for them. With teenage years, I am finding that physically I need to be driving them places and being awake when they come home as they love to chat then, but it is more emotionally demanding. My teenagers want to chat through issues with me and share with me what is happening. I find that if I am in bed when my teenagers arrive home late at night, they always come into the bedroom and want to share what has happened. If I complain or if I don’t make time to listen to them then, then there is a difference in their behaviour and what they share. Some of the best conversations with my teenagers have been at 11pm at night as they have recounted word for word what happened and how people responded when they were out. Occasionally I have been tempted to say “Please can you just tell me in the morning” or “I just want to go to sleep.”, but then I remember that I want my kids to be able to come to me whenever and share what’s on their heart. It also allows us to talk through and discuss the ‘other side’ of issues etc. Both my teenagers are strong willed and have strong minds, so it is great to be able to listen (and occasionally share a different point of view.)
Different seasons means different demands.
I can remember the first time when we didn’t have to pack nappies to go out of the house. It felt great. Similarly, when the kids started packing their own bags for holidays. What a sense of relief I felt when there was still a thousand and one things I had to do before we left for holidays. I loved the incredible, huge difference when my daughter began making the birthday cakes and I wasn’t up until midnight the night before parties making complicated castles or merry-go-rounds or fire truck birthday cakes. Yes – physically it does get easier. Now I seem to be the chauffeur (and from this week the driving instructor) and have come to cherish those times in the car as they are golden opportunities to chat and share our hearts.
On the other hand, my teenagers now cook dinner most nights of the week and help a lot around the house, thus household duties are more shared than when they were toddlers and trying to vacuum whilst they were screaming or taking a shower whilst they tried to come in there with you.
- Don’t believe every bit of ‘advice’ you receive
I have decided that our family is going to enjoy the teenage years. I believe we set the tone with our attitude. Our teenagers are emotionally stable. They are great helpers, serving in a variety of areas within the community. They always seem to be putting others first (with a splash of self-centredness). I have not bought into the lie of teenagers are horrid or that girls are a handful when they become teenagers. I love having teenagers and love doing life together with them. Sure, there are times when we all muck up. There are times when the teenagers are selfish or don’t see the big picture of everything else that is happening. But that is not the majority of the time. Plus, I’m not prefect and sometimes behave like that too.
We don’t do moodiness in our home. We don’t make excuses for emotional outbursts like, ‘its her PMT’ or ‘it’s that time of the month’. We have encouraged our kids, and tried to set an example, of being responsible for our emotions and choosing not to be moody and treat others badly. If a certain teenager is tired and we can see some early signs of grumpiness (which always seems to be related to being overtired), then if they haven’t already excused themselves to have a really early night, then we suggest they go and have a sleep for awhile and come back when they choose to engage in a delightful manner.
- Be consistent
Right from when the kids were younger, we have tried to be consistent in our discipline and in our routine. Yes, it can be hard at times. I find being consistent in discipline hard to maintain. Yet as soon as I am inconsistent, my kids notice immediately.
The kids have always had early nights, and still now as 13 and 15 year olds, we have early bed time of 7.30-8pm several nights per week. When you take tiredness out of the occasion, you find they eat better, they are emotionally more stable, they are happier. One of the reasons I love home schooling the kids as teenagers is that they can sleep in on a school day if they have had a late night. Our kids get a lot of sleep and I am sure that is one of the reasons that we are enjoying the teenage years.
Routine is a blessing, as long as there is some freedom and it isn’t a control mechanism. With routine, everyone knows when things are happening and what is required of them. It removes the uncertainty. Up until our oldest was 8 years old, we had dinner at 4pm. Why? It filled the kids up with good hearty food and they ate heaps because they weren’t too tired to eat. It also removed any grumpiness or whinging as they weren’t tired and hungry – the two main causes of grumpiness. It also meant that most nights the kids were in bed by 6pm. Sure, hubby often wasn’t long home from work and some nights he didn’t see them before they went to sleep but we didn’t have a lot of hassles with tiredness and grumpiness. Our afternoons and early evenings were pleasant. You need to find what works for you and stick to it as much as you can.
Do you need to ‘tweak’ some things in your family life at the moment? Maybe you need to adjust the way you view the season your kids are in?
Yes, parenting kids throughout the seasons physically and emotionally changes but being present in the moment is important. This is especially true when we are raising our children to be world changers.