Let's hear some parenting advice for older kids!

People are always full of advice for parents when they bring that squishy little newborn home from the hospital, but the well seems to dry up as they get older. While I of course ignored most advice when I was a new parent, I always like reading threads providing it as a lot of it is quite sweet and heartwarming.

Anyone have any (non-judgemental) advice for parents of toddlers, tweens, teens, and beyond? My kids are 2 and 5 right now, go ahead, lay some wisdom on me!

I have a nearly 4 year old and a 6 month old. Sounds like we share an age gap in our kids ages though you are a bit ahead of me. Any thoughts on the gap? We tried to make it narrower, but it didn’t happen for us, so here we are. I have been told multiple times that it is ideal usually they say it is because the 1st is well out of diapers when 2 comes along so it is really from a parenting perspective rather than from the kids perspective. Do you find that your kids enjoy each other for the most part? Also, what are your childrens genders?

ETA: Sorry for no wisdom yet, it will be forthcoming if I have any!

Mine are exactly 3 years apart and I think it’s pretty much perfect. The 5-yr-old is a girl and the 2-yr-old is a boy, and as you say, she was well out of diapers and well-ready to give up being the baby and embrace big-siblinghood. They have their occasional moments of annoying each other but for the most part they absolutely adore each other, and now that he’s really becoming a viable playmate, they regularly have a fabulous time playing together. The most challenging time was probably when he was a year to a year-and-a-half, when he was getting into all her stuff and she was rightfully irritated and he was rightfully heartbroken by her irritation. Now that he really gets the concept of sharing, it’s far more rare for them to bicker.

How about you? What are your kids’ genders? How does the 4-year-old enjoy being a big sibling so far?

Ooh! And I have some unsolicited advice! When #2 arrived, we were very careful to word things so that she didn’t feel like she was ever being pushed aside for the baby. We never, ever said we couldn’t do something with her because we had to tend to the baby. Like, instead of “I can’t play right now, I have to feed the baby”, it would be “Sure, I’d love to play. I’ll be ready in 10 minutes.”. Of course, she’s not dumb, she knew why the delay, but I think it helped to not always be clarifying it in her mind that HE was the reason she had to wait. Oh, and we also tried never to call him “the baby”. We used his name, or went out of our way to also refer to him as “your brother”, which seemed to make her proud. Kind of obvious stuff, I guess, but I don’t see it happen too much, and I genuinely believe it played a part in how well they get along.

I have an 8 year old and a 10 month old. I was worried about the age gap because the bigger one had been an only child for so long I figured he wouldn’t be able to adjust. Boy was I wrong.

Anyway, advice for the bigger one. I have always talked to him like he’s a person. No tone changes (high-pitched baby talk drives me crazy), no real vocabulary changes, nothing that sets him apart from anybody else I talk to. I think this is beneficial first because he learns words and how not to talk like a moron and second because… I don’t know. I think it’s a respect thing. Yeah, I’m not treating him “special”, but I’m also not treating him stupid and he’s been able to have actual conversations with adults since he was, like, three.

Giving them choices is important but there’s a difference between giving them choices and allowing them to be demanding.*

Also, don’t ever let them win anything. Not ever.*

I know some people hate the Whys of parenting, but you kind of have to answer them (when they’re a little older and can be reasoned with) and “Because I said so” is almost always not good enough. I’ve had to say “Because I said so” because there really was no reason, but if you can rationalize things for them I think it makes everything go smoothly. “No, you can’t go to your friend’s house.” “Why?” “Because I said so.” “YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING EVER AND BLAHBLAHBLAH.” vs “Because we are going to X instead/because I’m making dinner/because you’ve been outside all day and I think it’s time to come in now, etc.” “Oh. Okay.”

Actively listen to your kids. My son like Bakugans and Star Wars and monster trucks and 100 other things I don’t actually give a shit about but they’re important to him so when he’s blahblahing about this and that, I’m actually there listening to him. I don’t care, I really don’t, but he doesn’t know that. And I’m not LYING to him. I do the same thing with my SO when he gets going about gun stuff that I don’t actually care about. I do the same thing with my nephew when he starts in about video games I don’t play or care about.

Stop doing things for them as soon as they can do it themselves. Dressing, shoe tying, teeth brushing, picking things up, etc. They’ll take longer (sometimes a LOT longer) to do these things and they won’t do them as well (tell a five year old to clean his room; nothing is EVER where it’s “supposed” to be), but how else are they going to learn?

  • I had real-life examples illustrating both these points but my post was probably twice as long and full of all kinds of judgmental goodness and basically just me ranting about my sister’s failed attempts at raising well-behaved children. So… trust me. Reign in their choice-making abilities and kick their asses at Monopoly every single time until they get good enough to actually beat you.

Notice the good stuff. If they do some chore without being asked (or without whining when you ask) tell them you appreciate it. Tell them you like that outfit they picked out or the way they’ve combed their hair.

Give them a set amount of pocket money each week. And that’s their treat money, if they blow it on candy and soda it’s their choice. You don’t buy candy and soda - ever. If they save for something that’s beyond their reach, wait till they’ve made a decent stab at it (never less than half) and help out a little. Consider it interest.

When she was about six/seven, the kid started to complain about the lunches I made, she’s been making her own ever since. She does not complain about dinners.:smiley:

Children should not get a vote in anything they don’t contribute to. If they don’t help cook or shop, they get no say in what they eat. If they don’t come clothes shopping with you, they wear what they’re given. Your decision is final, and the more they argue with it the less they get what (they say they) want. Realise that their expressed preferences are irrational, erratic and ill-informed, and you do not win their love and favour by pandering to them.

You don’t ask kids what they want, you tell them what they’re getting. A family is not a democracy, it’s a benevolent oligarchy. To act otherwise is to set them false expectations for them on the way the world works.

This is all excellent advice! You cannot buy their friendship with treats and favours. They will NOT stop loving you just because you don’t give them what they state that they want; quite the opposite. Kids want rules and boundaries (no matter how much they complain when you enforce them), your main role is to provide them.

Any complaint on services rendered should be met by “since you think you know better, you can do it from now on”. Complaints, bad behaviour, and actions must have consequences - reliably and fairly. You must be calm and rational and predictable, not erratic.

But any positive action or expressed thought must be picked up on and reinforced immediately and without exception. As a kid they do 90% of things wrong, and the temptation is to assume that everything they’ve done is wrong. But you need to extract any positive message you can from their actions and thoughts. If they ever get to feel that they can never do anything right, that there’s no pleasing you no matter what, that’s a death-spiral for their self-esteem and confidence. Underneath they want to know what’s right, what they need to do in order to win your admiration, and they must get regular reinforcement of that.

And, always remember that kids are “stupid”. That is, they are not adults and can’t divine your intent behind your criticism, sarcasm, or meaningful silence. Just tell them straight up what you mean, they do not take hints and will misunderstand anything subtle. Compared to you have have a tiny tiny vocabulary and you need to state things in simple terms, don’t rely on implication, innuendo, aphorisms, what your parents told you - just say what you mean.

Mantras are good - just a very few statements that convey messages that are really important for your child to hear. Use them all the time, and the message will indeed sink in!

A friend of mine raised his kids by saying: “You know what Mick says!” The answer being: “you can’t always get what you want, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.” All of his kids could sing that ditty by the time they were 5.

When my kid was little, we had several oft-repeated mantras:

Whining doesn’t work.
Parents always win.
It’s nice to be smart, but it’s smart to be nice.

He really did internalize all of the above. Now that he’s a teen, we’ve moved to a slightly more complicated, but still simple and oft-repeated, set of messages. The big one is: “You have to take sex seriously for three reasons: disease, pregnancy, and hurt feelings.”

Now I can say to him “quick, what are the possible outcomes you have to think seriously about before you engage in sex?”

He’ll roll his eyes, but he will recite the same three reasons every time.

My work is not done, but I’m getting there.

Also good advice. No matter how much they push back on what you say, it DOES sink in. It’s amazing how often it comes back at you 2-3 years later as if it were their own thoughts …

Quoted from Askance, Children should not get a vote in anything they don’t contribute to. <big old chop>

Heck yes this. Let them help when they volunteer as well. But at the same time, you want to be sure that you limit the options before hand. My Little Guest (2 1/2) has been “helping” fix meals for about 6 monthes now. (he throws wrappers, apple cores and the like in the trash, it makes him happy) I set out two dinner possiblities and let him choose. Now he’s also wanting to start actually washing the dishes with me. So he gets a small treat for that as a reward (even though right now I have to rewash everything he washes). Don’t discourage helping hands.
somehow messed up the quote thingy had to make it readable

Also excellent advice. Even if you want to give them a choice, you don’t ask open questions like “what do you want to eat/wear”, you ask “which of these two possibilities do you want”.

If you haven’t started reading to them already, start now. Even babies less than a year old will enjoy snuggling and looking at picture books while you point at words and read them. And you might be surprised that the kid actually learns to recognize some words. Read to them EVERY NIGHT, unless you can’t talk at all. In your case, tell the older child that s/he can have some quiet play time while you read to the younger one and put the younger to sleep. Then, if the older child has a bedtime immediately afterwards, it’s his/her time to be read to. Little kids like to have the same stories read to them frequently, and might request the same book every night for months. This is normal, though it can be aggravating for the parent. I can still recite long passages from Fox in Socks from memory. I kept reading to my daughter until she was in middle school. She’s dyslexic, but she loves reading now, and I’m convinced that she started reading for pleasure because she wanted to find out what happened next in the longer books that I read to her.

Let your kids be kids. Give them time to get bored and find their own amusements, but do be aware of what they’re doing. Let them get rowdy and messy and dirty, as long as they aren’t seriously bothering other people, and as long as they’re doing this in appropriate places. A grocery store is not a playground, for instance, and kids should not be running around loose. Let them run around on a playground or in the back yard.

The simplest toys are quite frequently the best. For instance, most kids love large empty boxes as toys. Any toy that runs on imagination is generally better than a toy that runs on batteries.

And siblings are not always loving towards each other. Sometimes the fiercest hate is between sibs, but it will generally burn out in a little while.

Oh, and don’t assume that the younger sib is always innocent. While my brother and sister (both younger than me) didn’t try to get me into trouble (well, not much anyway), I saw younger sibs antagonizing older sibs until the older just snapped in several families.

A friend of ours who’s a paediatrician with a fussy-eater 6 year old employs this method to get as many vegetables down her kid’s neck as possible: she gives the child the option to leave 1 (only) type of food on the plate, but praises her to the skies if she manages the lot. She says not to employ this method if you don’t have to, but it gives little sir or missy the idea that they have some control over what they eat.

(Of course she’ll load the plate with one extra vegetable type, being the cunning sort :), but still the point stands).

I agree, with our daughter we gave her two choices as well. And it has paid dividends now she is a teen. She knows how to make decisions. If you make all your decisions for your kid, they never learn to think for themselves. Some of her past choices were poor decisions, but she learned from them. Giving her any and every choice is too much for a kid, but a controled environment where the consequences of a bad choice won’t hurt them but will educate them is important. Let them learn how to choose! It is a huge skill they will need as an adult.

Not sure if this counts as advice, but I can get my two boys, 3 and 7, to do anything they normally resist doing (pick up their room, put on pajamas, etc) by timing them. Even if I’m pseudo counting in my head, they still get moving like their butts are on fire.

Don’t know how long this will work as a strategy, but it works now!

Refer to it “taking turns”, not “sharing”. Taking turns is easier to understand.

No name-calling, ever. Little barbs have a way of ballooning into bigger resentments.

Offer them choices as often as possible. But you control what the options are. “Do you want to wear your red shirt, or your green one?” Not “What shirt do you want to wear?”

Always give them warning that a transition is coming: “We’re going to be leaving in 5 minutes. Finish what you’re doing.”

Re siblings:

Do not compare them to each other, ever, not even if you think it is in a favorable way. I.e., “You are doing so much better in school now, just like your sister!” No. Deal with your kids as individuals. You will someday be tempted to say, “Why can’t you keep your room clean like your brother does?” or “Come on, your sister only took a minute to find her shoes, so why is it taking you so long?” Avoid these temptations. You can’t ever avoid all sibling rivalry IMO, but if you can stop the sibling comparisons I think it helps a lot.

All of the above. My mom, my nanny and my dad all read to my brother and I up until I was about 3 and a smidge and decided I was a big girl and I wanted to read it for myself, and I have been addicted to the written word ever since.

We had definite boundries [try not having boundries with a german nanny :D] and were always talked to rationally [I also hate the baby googoo voice] and given limited ability to make choices [mainly in clothing, but we also were allowed to make a birthday present list and a christmas present list - 5 items for birthday and 10 for christmas, with the understanding that we would get 1 birthday and 2 christmas goodies off the list. The rest of the stuff was ad lib, and mostly clothing and books. Great way to limit the commercial greed from TV programming]

We had to try everything set in front of us for dinner at least once. After that we could opt to have more of everything else on the plate instead of some veggie we didn’t like. In general we tended to eat everything. The only times we had problems was once when it was Marie’s evening off, and Mom was in hospital. Dad made dinner for us, including stewed tomatoes. I can’t remember if he salted them instead of adding a pinch of sugar, or sugared them instead of salting them but both my brother and I refused to eat them as we thought they were absolutely horrid, and once my mom made a recipe out of a magazine, some sort of tropical ham loaf, a meat loaf made with ground picnic ham in place of the ground beef … it was spectacularly nasty.

We had a playroom [victorian mansions are great for lots of spare rooms, this was the original formal front parlor that wasn’t used for anything special.] Each of us had a footlocker sized toy chest, and a small set of book shelves. There was a third set of shelves for specifically shared stuff [puzzles, board games and one of the old school record players, and records.] We never had the oh my freaking god huge amount of toys that kids today seem to have. At best, we each had maybe 15-20 toys at any given time. I have vague memories of just after Christmas Marie or my mom removing older less used toys[and perhaps damaged ones] to ‘make room for the new ones’. We also were firmly trained to take something out, play with it and put it back immediately. Our toys also didn’t leave the play room.

We were encouraged to play together outside with the dogs or other kids. We had a huge fenced in yard, about 3/4 of an acre with one of the ubiquitous swing sets, we had a fairly large sand box and were allowed to bring out various car toys hot wheels and such to make little roads and stuff in the sand box. From Memorial Day to Labor Day we moved to our summer cottage, about 5 miles away from the winter house, and for 2 weeks in July we would go to the family summer house in Canada [my dad had 2 brothers, so each family would take a couple of weeks up there sort of like time sharing.] My brother and I shared a small sailboat and a small skiff, and did typical summer stuff like sail, use the skiff to go fishing, swim. We weren’t particularly restricted, other than we had to be home by dark, and the YMCA camp just down the shore was sort of our alarm clock, they played mess call at about 6 pm, and typically if we were within hearing range it gave us plenty of time to get home in time for dinner, which was late at about 8 or so.

We were given a small allowance to blow on whatever we wanted. My brother was really fond of mallowmars, and the toys you could get from saving up wrappers or whatever, and gum and the baseball cards. That was generally what he bought. I tended to like just plain hershey milk chocolate candy bars, and when they came out the nestles chunkys. Any money we got for birthday or christmas was also ours to blow or save. I know that both of us tended to save that money for larger things, he bought a bicycle and I tended to get books.

We were not allowed to name call, or fight. We had to share/take turns with mutual toys, and if we argued about sharing it, it got taken away for a short time. We had to keep our rooms picked up, and had to do our homework before we could play. We helped get our clothes out the night before [school uniforms are great for this, no quibbling about being fashionable:D] and in general got ourselves ready - I don’t really remember anybody dressing or bathing me after I started school. I also started learning to cook because I used to hang out in the kitchen and was allowed to help from as far back as I can remember.

Other than one month or so back in 65, we had a pretty idyllic childhood even though from 65 to 69 my Dad was stationed in Vietnam and was gone other than a month in the summer every year when he was home on leave. The joys of seriously small town America:D

Yes! My mom never let me help her, or when I took the initiative, she would just redo what I did. I remember trying to vacuum once, and she came up to me, took the vacuum, told me I was doing it wrong and went over my work again herself.

Now, as an adult, I can work a vacuum or whatever, but I don’t know the tips and tricks you were supposed to learn from doing thing since you were 10. Mom says she expected me to learn by osmosis, like I was to know how to cook a dish just by watching her cook.

So if you do take the route of letting them help but they’re not to your standards, don’t redo their work while they’re still there to see it. It gives a sense of futility and they’ll just give up trying to help if their help is worthless.

For teens that are not performing well in school: either micro-manage all the time, or stay hands off and let them live with natural consequences. As a teacher, I see too many parents who swoop in right after report cards and try to take over their kids’ lives for about two weeks until they get bored and then go back to just assuming everything is going fine. This is the worst possible approach: the teen who is used to independence resents the interference, the parent feels put upon, and nothing is actually accomplished because the grades stay terrible–but now it’s the parent’s fault in a way, because they accepted responsibility.

Micromanagement really is the best technique for some kids (usually ones that want to be successful but are just total messes, organizationally) but it has to be maintained for a long, long time and only very gradually loosened up. Hands-off is great for other kids, but you’ve got to be prepared to let them live with the real consequences–even if that means no family vacation because of summer school, or even graduating late.

This reminded me of one of the reasons I liked Dad’s Mom, Abuelita, so much; it’s a reason I had to remind my own mother of once The Nephew got old enough for simple board games.

When playing board or card games with kids, most adults fall into one of three groups: either they baby you along (and may even let you win, which may lead the kid to take his right to win for granted or, conversely, to get mighty pissed that his victories aren’t real), or they yell at you any time you make a mistake (because you must be perfect, don’t you know), or they deride/laugh at you when you make mistakes (because making fun of someone their own size could get them punched in the face).

Abuelita didn’t do any of that. When she taught you a game, she started by teaching you the most basic rules, and explained that she wasn’t telling you everything and would explain other situations either when they cropped up or before starting the second game. She would make sure you understood this. The first game would be played using only those rules which had been explained, no springing surprises on you. If she saw that you were making a mistake, she would say “wait, are you sure that’s what you want to do?” At first, the mistake would likely be caused by not having noticed something due to inexperience - eventually, it became a matter of having seen several options and making a choice which was different from the one she would have taken. Once you reached this second point, she’d stop asking except in extreme cases which made her think you really were missing something (in which case we all ask, out of courtesy).

Off the board, she was your grandmother and you her grandkid; you were her dependent and her subordinate; she had a duty to guide you and you a duty to obey her. On the board, you were complete equals - and the duels were to the death, but fought with absolute courtesy.