Years ago, I overheard one of the saddest parenting conversations. A mother was telling her friend how she had instructed her daughter to stop hanging on to her, as the daughter was in middle school now and “too big” for such public displays of affection. Yes, you read that correctly. The mother told her daughter to stop hanging on to her because the daughter was too “grown-up” for such childish behavior.
Did you know that when your children take a big leap in growth, it is natural for them to crave a little regression to a previous stage? You will sometimes hear adults describe teens as, “One minute he’s making adult decisions and the next he is acting like a two year old.”
Growing up is scary. We may know what to expect from a three year old or a five year old, but our child who has just turned that age doesn’t. Going to school is no longer a big deal to us, but our child may be terrified she will forget her locker combination on the first day of middle school.
Part of dedicating our children to God, is making sure they are as emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually healthy as possible. God can and has used every type of broken person possible I am sure, after all, we are all broken in some way. I have to wonder though, if God isn’t at least a little pleased if we raise our children to be as healthy as they are capable of being?
Notice how the Bible mentions Samuel “grew in stature and in favor with God and man”. (Remind you of another child in the New Testament?) I also think it is interesting God was calling Samuel’s name because he wanted Samuel to tell Eli something. Eli and his sons were going to be punished because Eli had not raised them to be obedient to God.
To raise children who are more like Samuel and less like Eli’s sons, we need to help them grow in healthy ways in every facet of life. This means encouraging them to take the next growth steps in a particular area. Sometimes, they will seem to do this almost naturally. Other times, they will need a lot of help and guidance from us.
Don’t be surprised if after a growth spurt in any area (or even a birthday) you notice some regression in their behavior. A very verbal child may even say something like, “I wish I were still four.” Going backwards a little is a way for them to relieve stress. They can leave their new, somewhat scary world and go back to a time when they felt safe and comfortable.
If your teenager suddenly wants to snuggle or your independent reader suddenly wants you to read her a story, indulge her. Reassure your child through your words and actions that he can handle these new rights and responsibilities. Let her know you will always support and love her. Most of all, let them regress for a few hours and snuggle up with a picture book. Who knows, you might enjoy regressing for awhile yourself!