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Fear not - but they'll be here before you know it! Or you may already find yourself in the midst of them with one (or more) of your kids...
Of course, I'm talking about the dreaded teen years. But, you know, they don't have to be that way: dreaded, that is. There are things you can start doing NOW to lay a foundation for a fruitful and yes, even enjoyable, stage in the parenting journey.
Actively listen to your teen
At first glance, this simple art may not seem like a big deal, but taking the time to actively listen and engage in conversations with your little ones is definitely laying the foundation for future conversations. If you've found their chatter irrelevant for the first 11 years of their life (and, believe me, they can tell!), it's going to be a whole lot tougher getting them to open up when the stuff starts gettin' deep just because you've decided that dialogue is now important.
Build your relationship
Spend time doing things your kids enjoy. Building Lego forts and having tea parties may not be your idea of a good time, but those simple acts go a long way to show your little ones that they're valued. Include them in doing things that you enjoy...baking, crocheting, going for walks, etc. Sure, it'll slow you down a little, but you're building a foundation for your future relationship. It's worth it.
Teach them Action = Consequence
While rescuing our children from unpleasant consequences might seem that we're doing them a favor, in the long run, we're seriously short-changing them. Kids need to understand that we're not always going to be there to save the day. And what better time to learn that than when they're young and the consequences are likely to be far less reaching and detrimental.
Guard their hearts
In all our getting obedience from our kids we have to very careful to ensure that we don't lose their hearts. Outward obedience is nice, but if we've alienated their hearts, we've failed. Discipline and correction can be handled without shaming and belittling. And, if you mess it up, a sincere apology (without excusing their actions) will go a long way in showing your child that you value them.
Help them grow in responsibility
Sure, we've mentioned understanding the "actions=consequences," aspect of responsibility, but it's equally important that our kids understand that they have a responsibility to their families. Households don't run themselves, but kids won't know that unless we take the time to teach them that everyone pitches in to do their part. Even toddlers are capable of helping put away their toys. Preschoolers can empty small trash cans and put away folded clothes. You can decide what responsibilities are age-appropriate, but have them doing something! Talk to your kids about the roles that the adults play in keeping things going in your house. They need to know that responsibility requires things being done whether we feel like it or not. Parents go to work even when they're tired. Meals are prepared and clothes are washed even when we'd rather sit on our bums and watch TV. This ongoing conversation does a lot to help the kids understand the important part they play in the family dynamics, paves the way to transition into more responsibility as a teenager, and will eventually be a huge blessing to their future spouse, kids, and employers/employees.
Of course, instilling these principles in your child's heart does not guarantee a life of making smart decisions on their part, or a close relationship between you both. But it does lay a solid foundation from which they are better prepared to face life well-equipped. And it also makes it more likely that you can both enjoy the teen years...together.
You'll be able to sleep soundly, knowing that you did ~ and are doing ~ the best you can in the most important role you'll ever have!
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