Project: youngest

One challenge faced by families like ours, with kids adopted at various ages, is that kids who arrived in the family at older ages often demand more of mom’s time and attention than the ones who arrived as infants and are generally doing well.  This kinda stinks.  No, it really stinks.  It’s honestly one of the things I feel saddest about when I think about the impact of adoption on our family.

Of course I understand that the kids who came at older ages have special needs, and one of those desperate needs is lots and lots of mom’s time and attention.  And I lean heavily on my sovereign Savior to help me meet the needs of all our children to the best of my ability. The very Savior who opened doors and worked circumstances to configure our family exactly this way,   But really truly, it is up to God to meet the deepest needs of my children’s hearts. And He has the power to grow my kids in amazing ways through this very challenge.

Still, even knowing all that, there are times my momma-heart bleeds for all the times in the past five years that our eight year old has been set aside while I’ve been dealing with big feelings and big issues with older ones. And lately, truthfully, she’s been a bit of a stinker.  Understand, I say this with deepest affection.  I adore this kid.  She’s a million pounds of spunk in a 50 pound body.  And what she’s been doing isn’t earth-shatteringly awful.  Probably it’s even normal for the youngest kid in a big clan.

It’s hard to be the youngest, to feel like other kids get to do bigger, better things, and you have to go to bed earlier and get fewer choices and then also withstand the teasing and bossing that older siblings  dish out. But wow, she likes to tease.  And boss. And sass the older ones. And I, as a busy momma who’s also raising 4 teenagers and a 10 year old, have perhaps probably been letting her get away with a bit more than she should.  Which only increases the irritation of older kids with her.

The other day I had a little light bulb moment. Our 14 year old son teasingly told her he loved her, and her face.lit.up.  She totally missed the teasing tone of his voice.  She just heard the love.  And it warmed her little soul.  That little moment got me thinking, and I devised a plan.

I had a talk with each of the older kids about her.  I acknowledged their frustration with her lately.  I told them I’m going to keep a closer eye on her behavior towards them.  But I’ve also asked each of the five older siblings at home to deliberately do three nice things for her each day. They get to pick what they do.  But it has to be something obvious, that she’s going to notice.  And I’ll be checking in with them now and then, to see how things are going.

Some of ideas they tossed out:

  • Give her a high five
  • Help her with a job
  • Play a game with her
  • Paint her nails
  • Tell her ‘good job’
  • Read her a story

We’re going to aim to do this for two weeks, and then we’ll talk again, see if what we’re doing has helped her attitude. I have a hunch that even one or two kindnesses a day from each sibling will be enough to improve her outlook on life and motivate her to be kinder to them as well.  I also think that just thinking about being kind to her will curb some of their bossy tendencies and set us all on a path towards greater kindness in general.  I’ll keep you posted!
Update 3 days later: she’s ALREADY a different child- happy, cooperative and fun to be around. Really.

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  1. That is a wonderful idea! I have noticed over the past couple of months that one of my kiddos has not gotten enough of my attention and it makes me so sad…thanks for the encouragement to be intentional about meeting his needs.

    p.s. She has an absolutely adorable face.

  2. I love this. What a beautiful idea.

    • This post could be about my youngest daughter. We are going through the exact same thing. Thanks for the idea. I think I’ll talk to the older siblings and see if we can try this!

  3. I love this, Mary! While we haven’t been blessed through adoption yet, its a good reminder for our bio kids. I am definitely tucking it away for when we get to adopt too! 🙂

  4. I almost burst into tears!! I feel OLD and worn and my newest kids take SO much out of me. I’m actually on the road to getting respite help through the DDD. I told the respite coordinator that by the time we get through the things that HAVE to be done – homework, meals, wash your face, brush the teeth, get your jammies on…. I’m so weary I just send them to bed even though I know I should be cuddling and reading bedtime stories, etc..

    Our Missy is SO crabby right now and this morning I talked to one of the teens and said, “Let’s just pretend we don’t hear the misery and treat her like we only heard happy chatter. Ignore the mean-ness, just focus on the good and let’s see if we can turn this around a bit.”

    I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try. I’ll add your idea to the mix.

    • Hi Angela,
      It’s such a hard job, isn’t it?? Focusing on the positive is really hard, esp when the negative emotions take up so much space in a room. But I think you’re on the right track. Hang in there– glad you’re looking into respite during this tough time for you.

  5. One of our children with super high emotional needs taxes the living daylights out of all family interactions. The other kids I know are going to learn some serious patience and compassion through his pain and journey because they have to tolerate so much. But only recently has it occurred to me to tell the other kids about his pain and his journey, so they can know that they can be apart of the goodness and healing just by being kind and tolerant. By making it project ______ (kids name). They miss out on a lot of school time because he hogs a lot of the one on one time available during the day, the least I owe them is an explanation of what is happening, why, let them know I am aware of it and want to show ways to make it up to them, too. I love this idea of working together on a family to show love when it’s needed.

  6. Beth Gallagher says:

    Man, you and I need to talk! Your littlest and mine are the same age and came home about the same age. We are going through exactly the same thing, and it is VERY VERY difficult. Can’t quite get a handle on improving things around here as we don’t have a big clan, but only an older birth sister. Looking forward to hearing how your plan works!

  7. That sounds like a great plan, Mary. I’ll be interested to hear how your project goes. I love that you are engaging the older siblings to pour on some love and attention.

  8. Oh you are so on the right track! Take it from a “youngest” this will mean so much to her!

  9. I love the creative, positive solution!

  10. I love this idea. Please let us know how it goes.
    Blessings, Dawn

  11. Lovely idea! I am a youngest child. I grew up in a family of kids who were adopted & born into the family.

    Then, one day, Mom was widowed.

    She went to the older kids (I found out later) and told them she NEEDED their HELP raising me – she couldn’t do it alone. They took the calling to heart & never forgot it. They were a real blessing to me. To this day, I say that if there are two pieces of cake, any one of them will give me the bigger piece! I am eternally grateful for the loving upbringing that was given to me by Mom AND my older siblings.

    • Dear Anna, My mom also was widowed when most of my siblings were still children, and I don’t think I did nearly as good a job being a big sister as you describe your siblings doing. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • ” To this day, I say that if there are two pieces of cake, any one of them will give me the bigger piece!”

      That is a fun way to put it 🙂

  12. Oh! I love this idea! (and I’m crazy about that kid!)

  13. Sounds like a great way to focus on the positive and make her feel loved by her siblings. I’ll bet it will help!

  14. Becky Bertram says:

    I’m sure you’ve already read it, but “The Five Love Languages” has a children’s version and a teenage version. They are wonderful books and just a great reminder that different things fill our love tank. Your idea of having each of the older siblings do something positive is sure to “Fill her love tank” in a big way.
    p.s. missed seeing you at Thanksgiving.

  15. Kate in NY says:

    Oy boy, this post really resonates. Sometimes I feel so guilty, because the most “challenging” member of the family takes up SO much of my time and energy – and sometimes there is very little left over for the others. Many evenings, even reading a bedtime story seems like a Herculean feat. My youngest was only 2 when my adopted son came home (he was 7), and I often feel as if she got cheated out of her childhood a bit. That being said, she has many other gifts that I can’t help but think evolved, in part, because of this experience. At 9, she is resilient, tough-as-nails and no-nonsense. She has a great sense of humor, incredible empathy for others – she is a good daughter, sister and friend. When she talks about the kids she plans on having one day (she has named them all, of course) she tells me which ones will be biological and which ones will be adopted! Her take on it seems largely positive.

    I love the idea of getting the older siblings involved, though. Just after Thanksgiving, my eldest (16) took May to see a movie – just the two of them. She was positively beaming!

  16. Melissa Lewis says:

    Oh, ts is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard.

  17. Susie Kirby says:

    I was a single mom of 4 until 2010 when we moved and I met a wonderful man who had 3 children of his own. Just a few months later we had taken in his half-sister’s 3 children ages 18 months, 3 and a 7 year old with Down’s Syndrome/ADHD and several other issues. Last January we added a baby to our family and then adopted the 3 children we had been caring for and in May we are expecting another little suprise….It has been a difficult journey. I was raised in a large family so it wasn’t that much of an adjustment but the whole adoption issue has been difficult as it was family that we had to deal with. Lots of mixed emotions to say it nicely. We have had a lot of behavioral issues with the 2 older ones and some of them were so extreme that we did not think we were going to be able to make the commitment to adopt one of them. Now looking back on it all of the troubles were worth it. We just had to take a step back from the different situations and look at them to come up with new solutions to the problems. Lots of love and patience always helps. Last year we had taken in an older child who was also related to us but unfortunately the negative behaviors had such a bad impact on the other children that we had to let her go with someone else. Has anyone else ever been in a similar situation and how did you handle it? I felt and still feel so guilty about it at times but I know it was the best thing to do for everyone involved. I am so glad that I found your site as it can be hard when you have such a big family and people just think you are completely insane to even think about taking in another child. I look forward to reading more of the posts and hopefully finding ideas to help our family.

  18. Be encouraged! It works like magic! Definitely involve older kids….they have tremendous influence!!

  19. I have this problem with my ADHD middle daughter(age 10). She wants her big sister(age 14) to pay attention to her but she irritates her so much and is such a tattle tale that she is seldom invited to “hang-out” with her. Instead my 14 year old will do something with my mild mannered 6 year old which makes the 10 year old really upset. I had to have a long talk with each of them about being nice and how to respect each other….oh the drama.I not quite sure that the situation is resolved, lol. It is going to be interesting to see what happens when our 3 year old arrives this summer from China!


  1. […] Project: Youngest :: Owlhaven – I love this. I’m loving the move towards more positive parenting exposure. Oftentimes the child that is being the most difficult is the one who needs loved on the most. […]

  2. […] you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!A couple weeks ago I wrote about our youngest daughter and the struggles she’s been having with her attitude. I challenged the older kids to work on […]