Gone are the days when I have to worry about the girls sticking things in an electrical outlet or climbing and then subsequently rolling down the stairs. I can take a bath in peace not worrying that they are going to do themselves bodily harm in another room of the house. (I use the term “in peace” casually, because inevitably someone needs to barge into the bathroom for something). So, in that aspect, maybe parenting is easier. When your children are “littles” you are constantly in the trenches. At no moment when your children are awake to you feel you can take a moment to rest or let your guard down. If it’s quiet, it’s usually because someone is up to no good, and you’re constantly on the lookout for things going in the mouth that are NOT food. When they’re not so little, it’s easier to find that “me” time that we craved so much as young moms.
However, the adolescent and teen years are full of their own set of challenges. Parenting doesn’t get easier during this time – it just changes. It’s a time when you have to start shifting from dictating everything for the child’s safety to letting them make some of their own decisions and (I’ll be the first to admit I have a hard time with this one:) mistakes. It becomes less, “That’s a bad choice because if you touch the hot stove you’ll burn your hand,” and more “That’s a bad choice because one you cross that line there will be unpleasant consequences.”
Of course, I can only speak as a mom of girls, but this stage is all about feelings. How do you handle things when your child builds up a desire to land a certain role in a musical only to be cast with a small ensemble part? How do you answer a child who wants so much for the other children in her class to respect the teacher that when they don’t it affects her spirit? How do you handle the tummy-aches every morning before school because they just don’t like public school but homeschooling is not longer an option? How do you handle feelings being hurt by mean girls? How do you handle the topic of BOYS? How do you teach them that it is NOT okay to speak to your parents (or any adult for that matter) like that, or that when you’re told to do a task around the house it’s not up for debate?
There are plenty of books out there on how to handle newborns, but as far as I know, there is no book out there on “What to Expect When Your Child Becomes a Hormonal Mess“.
Well, unfortunately I do not have all the answers. Wouldn’t that be nice? But I do have a few suggestions on how to make it through these years.
First, admit to them that you are not perfect. It’s something they already know. They live with you. They see you make mistakes. When I do something wrong in front of my kids – lose my temper or say something I shouldn’t – I need to confess that I was wrong, ask for their forgiveness, and move on. This not only validates to them that I was wrong and I am willing to apologize, it models the behavior we want from then when they make mistakes. Which they will. Often.
Secondly, we need to be gracious with them and forgiving, but that does not mean they should not have negative consequences for bad choices. They need to understand that even grownups have consequences for poor choices, and even though you may have forgiven their poor choices, it doesn’t mean they will not have to face the consequences. Natural consequences are best, but punishment is also okay if there is not a natural consequence that fits the infraction. They need to know it comes from love and that the reason for the punishment is that you are trying your best to teach them to become respectable, Christian adults.
Thirdly, consistency is key. Children are so quick to pick up on our inconsistencies. If we make empty threats, they will catch on. Why would they need to obey by stopping doing something they’re enjoying to fold a load of laundry if they know that if they ignore me, I’m going to let them? And while we don’t allow our children to whine “That’s not Fair”.. we do still try and remain consistent with how we treat each of our children. What’s good for the goose is good for the other goose. Now, at times, ages do come into play here, and older children may have more privileges or responsibilities than the younger, but overall, our goal as parents is to parent equally.
Finally, bathe them in PRAYER. The single most important thing you can do is to pray for your children. I pray constantly for my children. For their safety. For their attitudes. For their growth. For their future spouses. Does that mean that I can just pray for them and forget all that other stuff? Of course not. But do not underestimate the power of prayer!
So, no, parenting does NOT get easier. Parenting goes through seasons. Right now, my oldest is 14, so I still haven’t taken on the worries of a mother with a driving teenager, or of one whose children are leaving the nest for the Big Bad World. I’m sure that is not going to be easy either. For those of you with littles right now, take heart! You will not be physically exhausted forever. There will come a time when your children do sleep through the night and don’t even wake at the crack of dawn. But the parenting won’t get easier. Only different. And that’s okay.