5 Reasons It’s Harder to Parent Older Kids


I’ve been a parent now for almost twelve years. As a girl mom to three lovely little ladies, I remember all too well the days of carrying my babies in the grocery store, toting all three kids to museums in a heap of strollers and snacks, and encountering the well-meaning stranger as they reminded me how full my hands are. “It gets easier,” they said. In many ways, they were right! My girls are now 11, 8, and 6. They are in school full-time, sleeping through the night, out of diapers, and have learned the art of self-sufficiency (for the most part). But my husband and I recently discussed why this part of our journey is infinitely more difficult than we expected. I was sure the infant and toddler years would never end! But here I am, sharing five reasons it’s harder to parent older kids. 

Shared interests with my oldest is definitely a perk! Here we are headed to her first concert.

1. My kids bedtime has changed, but mine has not

I remember when my kids were five and under. No one was in school yet, I stayed home full-time, and bedtime was a chaotic frenzy of toddling children, bedtime tantrums, and nursing babies. But even after what felt like an impossibly long day, I could tuck them in at 7pm and look forward to 2-3 hours of blissful quiet. This left me time to clean, read, watch TV, spend time with my husband, and meet all of my introvert needs. Hiring a babysitter was more complicated and expensive and it took us longer to get out the door, but we knew that most of our time away from our kids would be during their sleeping hours. No one was missing out. There was less guilt.

Now I am back at work teaching high school and my oldest goes to bed at 9:30pm.  I am often falling asleep as our episode of Gilmore Girls is wrapping up, which means much of my earlier evening is occupied by trying to strike a balance between enjoying my kids, cleaning up from the day, and getting myself ready for tomorrow. Not to mention squeezing in time to exercise or do anything social. I didn’t resonate with the idea of being “two ships passing in the night” until this phase of life. It feels like getting time with my husband during the week is nearly impossible, and I wasn’t ready for that. Thankfully now that I am back at work, regular date nights are less of a financial strain and we treasure them more than ever before.

A rare moment of alone time requires documentation of course! I don’t take these for granted.

2. Screen time struggles

Every parent I know is fighting this battle right now, so I know its not just us. My 11-year-old has been asking for a phone since fifth grade and we aren’t planning to get her one until high school, but post-COVID times have left all of my kids wanting to watch more TV, play video games, and be on the computer more than ever. Personally, we set a one hour time limit for them during the week and we don’t do screens after dinner. The weekend is much more relaxed in this regard, but the number of meltdowns we have had about screen time since they have gotten older has been beyond what I expected. We have one TV and my kids have competing interests, so I wasn’t anticipating the fighting that came with who gets to watch what, when. Thank goodness we all love Bluey

3. Bigger kids, louder play

There are a few things I wish I could change about myself as a mom, but nearing the top of the list is how easily I get overstimulated. I remember my tolerance for noise and chaos being much higher when they were younger, but now I wince if the TV is too loud or if they have friends over and there is a lot of noise. Thankfully, my husband does much better with kids’ birthday parties and indoor playgrounds and recognizes when I am nearing sensory overload, but I wish I wasn’t so sensitive. Having a teammate who balances me out and is willing to step in makes a world of difference, but I know the noises are happy and I don’t want my kids to grow up and remember me always saying “shhhh”. This part is a lot harder than I expected.

4. Bigger kids, bigger emotions

We have been working on helping our kids regulate their emotions since they were babies, but no one prepared me for the amount of self-regulation I would need to do as my kids got bigger, wanted more independence, and pushed the boundaries way more than I expected. Unsurprisingly, there is a level of patience, breathing, and humility to parent a preteen.

When my kids were little and pushing my buttons, I could look forward to naptime or cry into my pillow out of frustration when my baby was teething or on a nursing strike. My 11-year-old on the other hand notices (and comments on) every look my husband and I exchange, every energy shift in the room, and is often my biggest critic. I didn’t grow up in the most patient of households so I was very nervous for this part of parenting. However, I have been both pleasantly surprised and regularly challenged by the need and ability to check my own emotions (and sass) at the door when my kids need a level-headed mom. This has come with a lot of therapy, processing, and asking for what I need in my marriage so that I can recharge regularly and come back refreshed.

Took the weekend away in Colorado for a spiritual retreat-Fall 2023

5. I didn’t know how much I would love it

If this article has anyone thinking I wish I could transport myself back in time to when my kids were babies, well you’re right! I miss that stage every day. It was simpler and more straight-forward. Frankly, I think I might have been better at parenting back then. But I didn’t expect to love our current stage so much either. In addition to “Your hands are full”, I also heard a lot of “Just wait until they’re older.”

There was a lot of advice bestowed upon me about enjoying the little years because when my kids got older, they wouldn’t be so sweet. And I will be the first to tell you that while this season requires more intentionality, I am loving it just as much as the last. As a more seasoned (but still learning) mom, I vow that my encouragement to new moms will sound more like: “Just wait until they’re older… you’re going to love it so much more than you thought possible.”

Ziplining fun! Having older kids is a blast.


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