Does Parenting Get Easier as Children Get Older?
As a young mother with three children under the age of five, I often wondered if parenting would ever get any easier. When I asked moms with children older than mine if parenting gets easier when the children get older, they would smile and say, “No. Parenting doesn’t get easier. It gets . . . different.”
I hated that answer then and I still hate it now. My children are older now and I know the answer to that question. So, if you are the mother of small children and are asking me if parenting gets easier, let me assure you – YES! Parenting gets easier!
Let’s talk about when parenting will finally get easier.
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When Does Parenting Get Easier?
So if parenting does, indeed, get easier, when exactly does it start getting better? For my boys, age seven was pure magic. As it turns out, children reach what’s known as the Concrete Operational Stage around the age of seven.
What I noticed when my boys were between seven and eight (depending on their individual rate of cognitive development) was that they became more logical and much easier to persuade. The struggles of the toddler and preschooler ages were finally behind me.
The disequilibrium-induced demands of the 6-year-old child practically vanished. Now, when I suggested that my seven year old wear a jacket on a cool day, he grabbed his jacket without fuss. When I said that it was bedtime, he was ready to negotiate a specific number of stories instead of finding reason after reason to postpone sleeping.
By the age of seven, my boys could actually do things all by themselves when they claimed they could!
While the personality-driven behavior of all of my children remained true to their nature, my boys at the age of seven were willing to meet me halfway. They began to understand the importance of (or least fall in line with) socially acceptable behavior.
Most importantly, they were able to truly empathize with others.
How Can I Make Parenting Easier Now?
If you’re currently parenting young children, you probably find it comforting to know that parenting gets easier. But, you still have to get through the early years with all of the demands and struggles of parenting toddlers and preschoolers.
Here are my best tips for meeting the challenge of parenting young children.
Take the Day One Hour at a Time
If all your children haven’t quite reached the sweet age where they become easier to parent, you can make your days a little brighter right now by taking it one hour at a time. It may sound like I’m oversimplifying it, but that’s exactly how I survived parenting three small children who were each two years apart in age.
In fact, my one-hour-at-a-time approach to motherhood is how Our Small Hours got its name.
By becoming aware of each hour, I was forced to realize that the tantrums were not happening all the time like I felt they were. The diaper changes were not always back-to-back. The siblings actually got along more often than they argued. (Though sibling rivalry is no joke!)
Ask For Help
Many of us have a doting mom or aunt or other relative or friend who would love to spend time with our children. If you need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Form a co-op with a few other moms. One day per week (or some other agreed-upon interval) one or two moms in the co-op take on everyone’s children for a few hours. This gives you time alone to run errands or to spend time with one child who needs a little one-on-one time with mommy. In addition, a co-op saves money. This is a great idea for moms on a budget who don’t have the expendable income for a sitter.
Don’t Try to be Supermom
The word is out: Supermom is a lie. We moms get a little suspicious of other moms who appear to have it all together. We know you’re hiding something. It’s most likely the loss of your sanity. So, stop it. We know it’s not real.
Give yourself a break and join the rest of us yoga-pants and pony-tail wearing, pre-packaged snack toting, thank-God-it’s-bedtime singing mamas. We don’t bite. And we definitely don’t judge.
(Side note: This is why moms judge each other and why it’s okay.)
Why Do Many Parents Say That Parenting Never Gets Easier?
Some parents disagree that parenting ever gets easier. When I worked as a family therapist, I observed families in which this sentiment was based in fact. Parenting doesn’t get easier for everyone.
If you’re a new parent, you can work now to avoid some of these pitfalls later on. Unfortunately, some of the reasons parenting remains difficult can’t be avoided. In those instances it is vital that you seek help from your family, friends, or community to keep yourself from becoming burned out and damaging your relationship with your children.
Some Parents View Their Children as Combatants Instead of Cohorts
Some parents, from the start, have an us vs. them relationship with their children. Parents with this mindset are more likely to use punitive discipline and to punish their children quickly.
Instead of working with their children in a positive way to teach them correct behavior, they focus on punishing their children for misbehavior. This sets up an adversarial relationship that lasts a lifetime.
To avoid this trap, focus on gentle discipline that teaches your children ‘what to do instead’ and not simply ‘what not to do’. Seek family therapy with a licensed family therapist if you feel that turning things around is outside of your control.
Some Parents Are Burdened With Emotional Difficulties or Mental Illness
Parents with untreated depression or anxiety, for instance, will not find much about life to be easy. Parenting, with all of its emotional demands, will never get easier for someone who’s living in the fog of depression or being driven by anxiety.
If you’re dealing with untreated mental illness, seek help from a professional.
Some Parents Are Single or Unsupported
When you’re a single parent or don’t have the necessary support from your spouse, you have to take on all of the work involved in parenting. This can suck the joy from parenting. It can be difficult to appreciate that the daily care of a teenager is less than that of a toddler if you have to hold down two jobs while wondering where college tuition will come from.
Reach out to others in your family or community for support.
Some Parents Have Children With Special Needs
It may not be true for all parents of special needs children, but for many who are the sole caregiver for their children it may seem that things will never get easier. I have an autistic son who has definitely become easier to parent over the years. It took a lot of work in his early years to get him to the point where he is now, however. And, the work is never completely done. While he’ll live well independently as an adult he’ll still need us to help guide him in some ways.
It’s vital for parents of special needs children to have appropriate respite care.
Some Parents Over-Function for Their Children
If you’ve set a precedent of over-functioning for your children, then parenting may not seem easier to you no matter the age of your children. When you do too much for your children or when you attempt to control your child, you rob them of a learning experience.
It’s important to understand which actions are required of you as a parent to keep your child safe and which are going too far to keep your child from ever feeling any pain.
Whenever possible allow your children to handle situations in their own way with your guidance, but don’t micromanage every situation for them.
Parenting Gets Easier for Most Parents
Each stage of parenting brings its own challenges, but the exhausting physical and mental work involved with caring for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers doesn’t last forever. There will come a day when your requests are no longer met with tantrums and when your children walk calmly beside you in a parking lot instead of darting off unexpectedly.
Focus on their sweet, chubby baby faces and adorable tiny voices for now. Get high on their precious faces as they sleep and the feel of their little hands in yours. Don’t rush these early years. Hold on to the promise that parenting does get easier.
While you wait for parenting to get easier, check out these resources to help you through the tough early years:
I also strongly recommend the books from the Your ___ Year Old Series. They are a must-have for every parenting library.
I also recommend these books for your parenting library. They’ve helped me with gentle, positive parenting over the past eighteen years.