Parenting Big Kids

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I remember when I thought my days would always be filled with diapers and bottles. I was sure I’d always have to carry a diaper bag and have cabinets filled with sippy cups. But, here we are, almost 12 years into parenting, and our home is suddenly populated by kids. Not babies. Not toddlers. Big kids. And one of them is a “tween.” They can all dress and buckle their own seat belts. They can unload dishes, clean up their rooms, fix their own snacks. Sometimes it seems like they don’t need us as much as they did a few years ago. It seems that way, but it isn’t true.

The truth is, they need us just as much, but in different ways. Here are 4 ways our big kids need us in their lives:

  1. They need us to listen. When our kids are little they talk and talk and talk. At times we tune them out because, really, we don’t need a recap of Cars for the 400th time. But as they get bigger, we need to tune in. Sometimes their conversations won’t be big. They’ll want to talk about their baseball game or the play they’re auditioning for. But sometimes, hidden between the lines, will be a hurt or a joy they want to tell you about without really telling you. Sometimes, if we just listen without jumping in with advice or judgment, we will hear their hearts. And, as they get older, their hearts are something we definitely want access to.
  2. They need us to let them fail. When they are 6 or 9 or 11, the stakes for their failures are relatively low. That failed math test isn’t going to keep them out of college, that missed ball practice because they didn’t get ready in time isn’t going to keep them out of the major leagues. Not getting a trophy isn’t going to kill them. As we grow up, we must learn to try, fail, and try again. Allowing our kids to do so when their young allows them to learn, in a relatively safe environment, that sometimes failure is the greatest teacher. And it isn’t the end of the world. 
  3. They need to be given responsibility. Our kids need to learn how to do things for themselves. Things like making sandwiches and doing laundry, mowing the grass and washing the car. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, teaching our kids responsibility is going to probably be followed by allowing them to fail. The first time my oldest daughter made cookies by herself, I had to recuse myself and let my husband help her clean up the mess so I wouldn’t freak out. When they’re learning how to clean the toilet or vacuum, they aren’t always going to do a stellar job. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach them. When they were first learning to read, they didn’t start with Charles Dickens. But without Dr. Seuss, there is no Dickens. We must let them learn.
  4. They need to know they are loved. When they try, when they fail, when they talk, when they don’t- they need to know we love them. No matter what. Our love for them doesn’t hinge on straight A’s or making the team or having a clean room. We know that. We just need to make sure they do. So, tell them often. Hug them even when they cringe. Let them know that, even as they get big, they will always be your baby.  

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