A Mothering Question

Blest with sons was talking about motherhood, specifically mothers getting over-involved in their kids’ lives. She was looking for input from moms with older kids and asked if I (and some other gals) would answer this question:

What issues/behaviors would you counsel younger moms to relax about?

I’ve been thinking about this for a day or so now, and here are some of the things I’ve come up with.

Food– I offer a variety of good food at each meal, and I do expect kids to at least taste everything. But I don’t micromanage every bite, and I emphatically do NOT offer other options. If they don’t like what I offer, they can eat at the next meal or snack. My one year old currently eats very little. But I keep offering good food and trust that she’ll eat what she needs. she is healthy and growing fine. And my big kids, all of whom were raised this way, are also healthy normal-sized kids.

Activities– I don’t fill my kids’ lives with extracurricular activities. The bigger kids (8 and up) have one outside activity each. That’s all. Kids need down time. We also don’t do boatloads of playdates. Once every week or two is often enough to have friends over. (Of course with 8 kids, they have plenty of friends inside the family.)

Boredom fillers– I am not a cruise director. Our house is full of scads of books, games and toys. My kids know that any time they want to help me with my work, all they have to do is complain of boredom. Unless they want to help me, it is up to them to think up activities for their free time. I think this encourages creative thinking.

Fights– This one is tricky. Sometimes a bigger kid can really take advantage of a little one (or vice versa) if you don’t intervene. Because of that I try to monitor what is going on and be kind of a guiding background presence. Some of my ‘stock’ comments include reminders like:
“If everyone doesn’t enjoy it, it’s not a game.”
“Find a way to get along.”
“Is that a solution that makes everyone happy?”

I think that intervening as little as possible helps them learn negotiation skills more quickly.

Anyone else want to take a stab at answering this question?


  1. I have to say that I agree with everything you said. I've never been a worrier when it came to the food part of parenting and I never made special items if the kids wouldn't eat. The activities took me awhile to learn and making the kids work out their own fights, yeah that's my favorite.

  2. Good stuff!! Thanks!

  3. I agree with all you've said. Especially the activities and down time thing. Some parents just overload their kids so much that they never just get to "chill" and be kids.

    Good stuff!

  4. Thanks for sharing your wisdom—my kiddos are still little and I have often wondered about these same issues.

    Our oldest is approaching nine and I can already see where I could have loosened up and what I should have taken more seriously.

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. 🙂

  5. Those are all great. I too do not make multiple dinners. I do however try to be sure there is at least one thing part of dinner that each kid will eat. Even tho they are required to taste it all.

    On fighting children, I loved your phrases. Two of the ones I use as well when they are fighting over something:
    -Figure out how to share it or it's mine.
    -If you don't want to share it put it away. (if it is someone's special something, they have the right not to share, but do not have the right to tease..)

    Very nice post.

  6. I like your suggestions. I think it's important for parents to NOT take on the role of negotiator. Otherwise, you'll turn your kids into terrorists! 🙂

  7. I found your answers helpful or encouraging. I agree with them even though I don't go about the mealtime the same way I agree with the stress free thing, along with the other answers! One rule that I have tried to apply around our house that I haven't had to change yet was teaching them all to serve each other. We do lots of service for each other especially when they've hurt that person!

  8. Okay, I guess my answer didn't really fit the criteria of relaxing but it does evoke way more sympathy towards one another which in turn makes everyone relax! 🙂

  9. Mary, you have no idea how this post has set me free. I have tried to raise my kids with common sense and with God's wisdom. But lately, I've had people close to me criticize how we are raising our kids, even though their kids are horrid and mine are good kids. I do all the same things you do Mary with regard to what you posted and it makes me feel great to know that someone I admire as Goddess Mom, parents the same way I do! My kids are turning out to be wonderful kids who love the Lord and I am daily thankful for His guidance in our parenting. Thanks for that post!!

  10. A Big AMEN! I agree with every word you've posted and I'm trying to put it all into practice. On your list, the biggest thing I have trouble with is not breaking up the fights. I want to raise kids that respect each other (and me), are kind, and know how to resolve issues. It's so hard to stand back and let them learn to resolve!

  11. Wow. I tried to read beyond the fact that you have 8 kids…and barely was able to. EIGHT? You must feel so blessed.

    I agree with you that playdates should be at a minimum! LOL

    We are researching adoption from Russia, so I will DEFINITELY be needing advice soon. 😉

  12. Wise words. On the activities thing… I find it a little challenging sometimes to maintain the "one activity" rule because my daughters' friends all seem to be overachievers involved in EVERYTHING (plus they're richer than us and can AFFORD everything) and sometimes I feel the pressure. But so far we've been able to resist.

  13. Yes, I like your way of mothering, and another way to relax is with bumps and bruises, I try not to run out for every little fall they take. Naturally, there are times where swift and imediate response is needed, but really, more often they do just fine without me. My 2 year old now will come crying and before we even know what happend she'd have said "there, all better" and had gone back to playing.

  14. Very nice. I used to worry that my older kids didn't spend enough time around other kids. The I realized we have the greatest blessing, they are each other's best friends.

  15. nice tips

    i only have one and he is four – so I am no expert.

    but with only one little boy, who is very active – I do have to work harder at getting him involved with playdates and activities. I really wish he had siblings. Atleast he now has my twin's one yr old a block away and he has her for a "sibling" many days.

  16. our kids were allowed to have one "hate food" – once declared they didnt have to taste it anymore. Our son, now grown, has started to branch away from it and tries it here and there. Our two girls still hate what they hated. We didnt do the "clean plate thing" either – figured it fostered overeating. They couldnt come back and snack later but we didnt require them to eat because kids were starving in China.

  17. (sigh) You are so relaxed at this. I have three at home, not five, not eight, and I struggle with keeping it together.

    I used to parent calmly and reading through your post I see it's not so much right now.

    You so need to write a book Mary, really…

    You make so many good points, you have amazing stories and, you just are a great help.

    Once again…thanks for taking the time to do this…you know…share with all of us.

  18. All good advice… Some new ideas and some good reminders.

    I am trying to remember to relax about the boys possibly getting hurt. I tend to say, "be careful!" too much, I think.

    For situations like holding hands in a parking lot or not touching the chemical stuff in the garage, I am still super-strict. But I'm trying to relax or bite my tongue if they want to ride their bikes down a hill, or tackle one another or something.

    I want them to develop a sense of physical competence (even of masculine "power") and not be afraid to hurt themselves a bit or take risks.

  19. My grandmother (in-law) had 10 children and she let them all choose what they wanted for dinner! Can you imagine how much she had to cook?! Whew! I have 4 myself but they have to eat what's on the table. If they don't eat it, I wrap up their plate. If they say they are hungry later, I pull out the same plate of food. That way there is no sneaky way around it. http://amazingsix.blogspot.com

  20. Who in their right mind could add anything to what the mother of 8 says? Especially when it was all so grounded and helpful? Thanks for posting it.

    I also like what Cheerios said about serving one another…we've been firm believers in that forever. We have two mottos around here: (1) we all do what we're able, and (2) we all work until the work is all done.

  21. I have to agree with tam, you need to write a book. With each kid I have had I realize what battles are worth fighting and which ones are to be left in the trenches. In parenting I can be quite stubborn when it comes to some of my pet peeves, but I've learned to relax on plenty of other things. The one thing I've learned to think about before acting on any situation is at the end of the day will it matter? If this was my last day on earth, would this be the way to handle it, is it really that important?