Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Today I had this question in my inbox about the post about teens. I thought I would share my answer here:

Hello Erica,
You said: "he is very loving with us and the other children..."
I was wondering if you had any wisdom or tips related to this statement. Our oldest is 13b, and while he is loving at times, he is almost downright mean at others. I don't know what I might do differently to cause (all of them, actually) to be more loving toward each other.
Thanks for any tips you can offer.

Hi Emily,
First of all I would say that when he was 13 he was *not* loving toward the other children. He had quite a few years (probably from about 12-15) that we refer to as his "sullen years." He was grouchy, wanted everybody to stay out of his stuff, and kept to himself a lot. I now have a 14 year old daughter kind of in that mode, and a 12 year old son who seems to be headed toward it. So, I just want to let you know that, since it would be easy for some people to assume that my kids are all so loving and always have been. :) We have some junky attitudes here from time to time, for sure.

I'm not really sure what I can attribute his loving attitude toward, but I will give some guesses. We have tried to maintain our love and affection for him consistently, even when he has not been all that friendly. I have never lost track of the fact that he is still the same boy that we loved so deeply when he was a baby and all through growing up. We are crazy about our kids! :) We are very accepting of him and transparent with him. I think that since we are respectful of his growing independence and that we are supportive and excited for him (rather than nervous, suspicious, or trying to hold him back) he is a very comfortable person who has no "gripes" against anybody, us included. In the areas where there are differences in beliefs or whatever, we are very loving while also open (in times when it gets discussed) about the reasons we have decided to live or believe as we do, but we do nothing to get him defensive or cause any walls to be built up between us. Basically, there is nothing for him to fight against. Not that we let him have everything he wants or that there are no boundaries, just that we have an ability to be both friendly, open, honest, and firm when needed that seems to stir up together to make good things happen :)

As far as it goes with his siblings, from the sullen years the youngest kids were actually kind of scared of him and there was a real separation there. In recent years when he has been happier I have encouraged him at times to remember how much it means to be a young kid and have an older kid take an interest in them, etc. He tries to be pretty encouraging to them, tell them that he thinks their latest Lego creation is really cool, etc. :) I encourage the younger kids to go show him stuff that I know he will be able to appreciate. I guess I just do a little bit of stirring the pot to encourage everybody toward each other.

Also, around the sullen years beginning we had a lot of chaos in our home with 3 little ones born in less than 3 years, and many things were out of control. Things are a lot better now and I think that it is more enjoyable for all of us, including the older kids. We do a lot of outings together, go fun places, etc. and our oldest is still happy to go along and is content to hang out with us during those times. (He is also very social and spends a lot of time out and about with his friends, taking classes, working, etc. so it is a good balance for him although we often miss him some since he is spending more and more time away from home, which is normal but still an adjustment for all of us.)

We have gone through some hard things together and he has seen that we will stick together and do whatever needs to be done to help one another, and I think that has been a powerful glue in our relationship as well.

Overall, we're a very open, affectionate, accepting family, and I think that our kids are generally like that, according to their personalities, of course. They say more is caught than taught, so I hope that is true with our other children. I do have many days when I am amazed at the mean words, selfishness, and anger that will come out between them since I feel like they have a lot of consistent examples of generosity, forgiveness, happy attitudes, etc. It can be discouraging and I do feel concerned about it sometimes. I keep plugging away and hope that our children will turn out to be a credit to God and all of us as they grow, but sometimes I think it is more in spite of us than because of us if they do. :)

I hope this helps!

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