Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Listen to Val's podcast episode that coincides with this blog post: Showing Love to Your Child at Different Stages from Toddler to Teen, and Learning to Let Them Grow Up, Episode 3.
Where kids abound, so do unpredictable moments. If you’re the parent of very many littles (you know, the loud but small tikes who roam your home), I can guess that you share some of my same crazy history! I think it’s time for you and I to bond over a little bit of mom-crazy that is brought on by a house full of littles! Can you identify with any of these moments from my life?
*Changed a diaper of an interesting color and realized the baby had been eating a crayon
*Found myself yelling the words, “Be quiet!” (You’d think I have been able to eliminate this character flaw after over 20+ years of parenting, but I found myself rather angrily saying the other day to one of my teens, “quit letting your emotions dictate your actions!”)
*Had a line at least three children deep waiting to talk to me or ask a question
*Started the washing machine, put in soap, and ran the whole cycle before I realized I didn’t remember to put the dirty clothes into the washer
*Had a preschooler try to change an infant diaper without asking permission because she was “trying to help.”
*Had a bar of soap or any interesting item flushed down the toilet that wasn’t supposed to be flushed down the toilet (Do you happen to know how many gallons of hot water it takes to melt down a bar of soap enough to get it to pass on through plumbing? After 80 gallons we stopped trying and took off the toilet. In the pipe we found six Legos, 1 Matchbox car, a few unidentifiable objects, and that pesky bar of soap).
*Re-put in the laundry detergent for a second time… and forgot the clothes for a second time
*And a third time
*Got everyone ready to go except for one shoe and had all family members looking for the shoe for at least 20 minutes until we gave up and headed to the van, only to find out it was already in the van!
*Announced to my children, “Mommy’s going into the bathroom. Unless you’re bleeding or the house is on fire, don’t knock on the door. I’ll be back in a minute,” and within three seconds of entering the bathroom I hear the first knock.
If any of those scenarios sound like your life, then you’re the parent of littles! For being the tiniest bodies in the house, it’s rather ironic that they can be so LOUD.
How are we to get anything done with the other kids when the littlest of the bunch seem to demand our constant attention?! Well, after seven of my own children and now enjoying some grandbabies, I’ve had a few opportunities to trial and error what is important when raising toddlers and preschoolers. I’ve divided this post into three parts. I hope Part 1 of “When Littles are Loud” may bring some relief to your busy household.
You may have heard of the series of books on the Five Love Languages. My first recommendation to you on how to deal with preschoolers in a busy household is derived from a concept that I actually gleaned from The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. (Also see How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell). The concept is that there is a “Love Tank” that each of us possesses, and when that love tank is full we are at our best! That concept has helped me so many times throughout my years of parenting. So here’s my step one: FILL THE YOUNGEST LOVE TANK FIRST. A child with a full love tank can play on their own better, be less clingy, and have more peace. One way I did this as a homeschool mom was to schedule five minutes at the top of every hour with the toddler in a focused one-on-one time with them, then this bought me some minutes of focused time with an older student to go over their assignment, etc. Certainly after the few minutes of focused time with each of your tots they still need supervision, but they are far less needy because they aren’t running on emotional fumes anymore. The thing with littles is that their tanks empty quickly so they need refills far more often than olders, when it comes to mom-time.
Speaking of “Mom-Time,” when my house was full of very young children (I’m the mom of four daughters and three sons) and they all had big love tanks that needed filling, I taught them that when it is a Mommy/Child special time, not to interrupt. To do this, I used a homemade sign and a timer. Toddlers got an official “Mom-and-Me” every hour while the elementary children got it once a day. Kids knew that if I had the sign set up and timer going, it meant that I was having some special time with one of the children (I could be right in the same room with the others, but the sign would be up and they knew to wait until the timer went off before they should interrupt with a question or a need). This made the one child I was giving time to feel very treasured. Since each wanted the other siblings to honor his or her special time, each learned to honor the other kids’ special times also. This process was so important in our home to get all those love tanks filled.
Now that most of my kids are older (five of them are grown) and don’t want or need as much one-on-one time with me, I have plenty of opportunity for uninterrupted time with my youngest, so we don’t have need for a sign and timer. This will vary based on the ages and number of your children.
In John Eldridge’s book The Way of the Wild Heart, he talks about the stages of a boy’s life. The first stage is that of the “Beloved Son” and the principle for this stage is essential in both boys and girls. In this stage, the child needs to know that he is adored by his parents, loved beyond measure. One of my greatest regrets in life is that there were some difficult years in mine and my children’s lives where I was not good at “adoring” them — making them feel “beloved.” I was so caught up in trying to make sure they were good that I failed to show them that they were priceless. Don’t make the mistake I made. I’d love to be able to report that I never fail in this crucial role of showing my kids how priceless they are in my eyes but, as a non-touchy-feely type, I do still struggle with effectively and clearly sending that message to my kids. You remember that, at the beginning of this post, I said we should bond over some similar mom-history. Well, if I could, I’d implore you to NOT share the history with me of regretting that you didn’t regularly give them the most needed love-tank filling of all — giving them “the blessing,” even on their most difficult days. (See the book The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley). Fill their love tanks and every single day look into their eyes and let them know you adore them.