Cars and Castles: Parenting Teens and Toddlers

Kitchen chairs wobble high, topped with gallantly-waving blanket turrets. My teen daughter has asked for a break from homeschooling to play with her three year old brother.

“I haven’t given him enough time lately, Mom,” she shares sadly. “I’m already done with my math test, creative writing, and art. Can I build him a castle?”

Sure, yes! How do you say no to that? Minutes later, shaggy haired three year old races into the kitchen.

“Mom, I need a sword for my castle!”

Equipped with a green rubber spatula shoved down the side of his diaper, he runs off, with a few mighty leaps and paused poses. “I get bad guys,” he informs me.

Downstairs, tall broad-shouldered oldest reads “The Tale of Two Cities,” plodding through homework that takes up more and more of his day. Preparing for college in a year, he is learning that school becomes a way of life in these years. He balances two part time jobs, homework, and driver’s ed classes where three long-legged teens pile into our vehicle for carpooled rides.

Balancing glue stick crafts and college visits is a fun adventure. Here are three tools we have used in parenting teens and toddlers.  

1.) Make the family unit something to be treasured. We affirm often that family is forever, and that these friendships are to be nurtured too. Meals are intentional times of conversation and laughter. Siblings are encouraged to mentor and invest in each other.

2.) Plan fun family events –for several ages.  We have enjoyed half price sushi, board games, and movie nights over pizza, along with simple Pooh Bear memory games. I am recognizing that I need to do more outings for just the four older ones of us, too, leaving toddler with a babysitter sometimes. We hope to go bowling soon.

3.) Proceed with prayer, laughter and lots of communication. Discussions with our kids and getting their feedback is very helpful. Talking through parenting choices with my husband is vital too, and I appreciate his discernment. Together we seek God’s heart and wisdom too.

When I realize that this time in the home with our kids is so short, and that a lifetime of adult friendships are possible, it excites me and changes how I parent.

What about you? I look forward to hearing from you what parenting tips you enjoy, or what you have seen others do well, or what your parents did well with you. 

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  1. Houseofmills on February 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    We made a "rule" that husband I get one night out a week and that's it. The rest of the evenings are family time.

  2. Danielle on February 2, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    As we are pretty heavily involved in House Church and Discipleship, we try as a family to do as much of that together as we can. Sometimes it's hard because our daughter is 12 and needs time for homework— and But, the time we get together with others, in the word is invaluable.

    We love spending time together playing games. Board games or games on the Wii. Much fun and laughter doing those.
    Also, bikes rides and nature walks together. Would not miss those for anything!!


    For She Speaks, I've been on all the tracks now. Speaking my first year. Women's Ministry my second and writing last. I have taken so much from each one and tried to apply them all the my ministry with young girls and with my writing.

  3. Glenda Parker Fiction Writer on February 2, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    A great post. Where were you when my kids were growing up. I don't think we had that kind of fun. Praise God you are a blessing to the kingdom. God bless you all.

    Glenda Parker
    glendaparkerfictionwriter.blogspot. com

  4. Cheryl Barker on February 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Keep making all those investments, Jennifer. My adult daughters are two of my closest friends now. Am so blessed.

  5. Jennifer Dougan on February 3, 2012 at 1:50 am


    Once a week is a great idea. We don't get out that often, but still try to be intentional about dates. I think I need another one… 🙂


  6. Jennifer Dougan on February 3, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Hi Danielle,

    Doing ministry together is a great way to bond and grow together too, I agree. Bike rides and nature walks sound relaxing in between. 🙂


  7. Jennifer Dougan on February 3, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Hi Glenda,

    Thank you. How old are your kids now?


  8. Jennifer Dougan on February 3, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Thanks, Cheryl.

    That's so encouraging.


  9. cabinart on February 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    It always comes back to family. You can have the greatest friends in the world, but your family is the safety net.

  10. Jennifer Dougan on February 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm


    I agree! Although making new friends is fun too.


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