I've just finished a marathon two hour session of cleaning in my boys' room.
The four of them, aged 7 to 13, share a room together. They've two sets of bunk beds and for the most part, they're a happy lot sharing this space. My sons get along well despite the age ranges and enjoy gaming together, Lego and other kid-stuff in their bedroom.
Anyway, I got to thinking while I was engrossed in the epic task of cleaning their mutual space, how my rules don't seem to apply anymore, when it comes to my growing kids.
As I poked about their bedroom (which was hideously littered with clothing, lolly wrappers, lollipop sticks and an array of food items which they've at some point in time, smuggled into their space), it became apparent to me, that I am no longer an effective influence over my kids on the discipline front.
I've always had a rule that there's to be no eating upstairs in our home. As any mum will agree, it's hard enough to keep a few rooms tidy when you've a family, without the mess spreading around the house into every room. So we make rules and rules are to be followed.
It's against my laws to consume food in bedrooms.
Clearly, I am a crappy parent these days, for the vast array of food wrappers evident in their sleeping-space spoke volumes to me of my effectiveness as a mum.
I am failing dismally these days when it comes to controlling things like I once did.
I remember the time when I had just a few kids at home with me in the baby, toddler and preschool age groups. Despite parents generally nodding in agreement at the suggestion that these years are tough, (for they've certainly got plenty of fine moments), I can recall thinking differently.
I was well-aware back then, (perhaps because I had once worked in a school), that these early years were actually the easy years compared with what was to come when the time for school came around - and not just because I'd have to haul everyone out the door to do a 9am and 3.30pm school run daily either.
If you've a baby or toddler bouncing on your knee right now, or a pre-schooler playing at your feet, (or jumping on your sofa, drawing on your walls, taking a nap or annoying a sibling), then my advice to you is to enjoy these times.
Once your babies start school, things really change for everyone, especially on the parenting front...
You will be tested relentlessly.
Once kids reach school-age, they're out there in the world - hardly news to anyone I know, but to those of you who are yet to arrive at this next stage, be aware that this is when you will really be put through the gauntlet as a parent.
Each of my own kids made quite a rapid change once they reached primary school age. With the increase in knowledge fuelled by reading and writing and the influence of new friends, they each, slowly but surely, became a little more cheeky, cocky, cunning and worldly.
Suddenly simple rules and requests from mum and dad are met with clever 'come-backs' - comments that artfully hit you from the side and leave you stammering for an ad-hoc reply to offer to a smugly satisfied kiddo who knows they're winning.
And that's infuriating!
Kids seem to develop a high degree of selective hearing too in the primary age group, somehow neglecting to register your eighth request to have them do something which was once instantaneous. (They can manage to hear a lolly or biscuit packet rustling at a 5km radius however.) This means you find yourself becoming exhausted, as pretty quickly and inevitably, your request ends up becoming just another task to be performed by yourself on an already extensive list.
The word 'no' loses a lot of clout with an older child as well. School-aged kids excel at asking the same question many times with an apparent inability to register a refusal. Eventually they work their magic on the other parent until one of you 'slips-up' and their initial desire is met.
And so, the kids win again.
Don't forget to consider the influence of other kids and their parents. Being a parent to a school-aged child means some serious play dates begin and frequent sleepovers are arranged. Your child vanishes from your care for a full 24 hours or more and becomes totally immersed into a whole new world of another and their family:
For better or worse.
Generally speaking, forever-more you'll hear about how much more fun 'so and so's' family is:
How their mum's a better cook.
They have a pool.
They were allowed to watch an MA15 plus movie at 'so and so's,' so why can't they watch the same at home?
Their friends basically have everything you don't have and everything's just so much better there.
With the increase in age, new habits form in your kiddos; new traits. Not all of them are good ones. It all adds up to more work for you as you round-up a collection of your own come-backs that squash those lofty ideals and challenges and I don't need to tell you, it's dang near impossible to stay on top of.
And so my discipline and control over my brood has slid to an all-time low until I can craft-up some new and more effective parenting techniques.
So in the meantime, give me the pleasures of the nappy years; the tantrum years; the scribbly, sticky, snotty pre-schooler years: They're fantastic! Enjoy the freedom from those cheeky come-backs and laugh hysterically at the clumsily-worded, sweet prattle of your younger children while they're still tottering.
All too soon it will be a different situation altogether. A new game entirely.
Are you struggling to be an effective parent in the primary years?
Have you experienced these situations yourself?
Have you experienced something different again?
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