“It’s just a phase.”
I’ve heard it a hundred times and said it a hundred more. When we’re talking about our children, those words are often true. Whether they’re toddlers or teenagers, kids go through lots of different phases.
Knowing that the tough issue we’re facing with one of our kids is “just a phase” often serves as an encouragement. It’s nice to know that this trial is not unique to our child and that it will eventually pass. But if we aren’t careful, we can easily misuse the concept of childhood phases, reducing them to inconveniences and missing out on valuable opportunities to train up our children.
The phases our kids slip in and out of are a part of growing up. Sometimes they’re physical. Sometimes they’re developmental. And, sometimes, they’re part of our children’s desire to “test the waters” in order to decipher what’s right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable.
Whatever the cause, they always provide a unique opportunity to love and discipline our little ones (or not-so-little ones).
Dealing with childhood phases:
Don’t overlook sin.
Don’t use the fact that your kid is “just a kid” as an excuse for their sinfulness. When we do that, we’re missing a chance to teach the gospel and train their heart, and our child is missing out on learning about what God expects of them and the grace He offers when they fall short.
Consider the heart.
While we don’t want to overlook outright sin in our children, we also shouldn’t go searching for it where it doesn’t exist. There is a difference between a preschooler who doesn’t make it to the potty because he was busy playing and one who doesn’t make it because he refused to go when he was told.
The first one may need a timer set to remind him to take a break every hour or so. The second one may need a different kind of reminder, the kind that communicates that discipline will always follow disobedience.
Love, love, then love some more.
Give hugs, kisses, and words of encouragement even if that “warm fuzzy feeling” doesn’t happen to exist in your heart at the moment. The love we show our kiddos when they’re waking up six times every night, throwing tantrums over every little thing, or talking back throughout the day isn’t the same love we show them when they’re being sweet and adorable.
It’s the kind of love that sees all their faults and chooses to offer forgiveness…mercy…grace. It’s Christ-like love.
Isolate the problem and look for creative solutions.
Don’t accept that eventually the phase will pass. Do what you can to help it along. Should you only give your food-throwing toddler two bites of dinner at a time? Does your bed-wetting five-year-old need to be taken to the bathroom before you go to bed at night? Does your grumpy ten-year-old suddenly need some extra sleep?
Change the rules.
When each of our children were about four-years-old, they went through a time of telling tall tales that would quickly turn into outright lies. When confronted, their answer was always, “I’m just joking.” After we outlawed “joking” for a short time, those lies stopped. It was important for them to understand that lies would not be tolerated.
But it was also important for us, as parents, to understand that they needed some help in developing their reasoning skills. With time, they were able to joke around without taking it too far.
Be careful not to overreact.
With love and discipline, the phase really will pass. I promise. Some things just take time. You do not have to wait it out passively, but you do need to wait it out patiently. Keep at it day in and day out.
One day you’ll suddenly notice that the problem you were so concerned about has gone away. Of course, it’s probably been replaced by another issue, but that’s all part of parenting.
So how about you? Do you have any tips for getting through the phases that pop up in our kiddos? Tell us about it!
This post has been updated and republished from the archives.