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Have you ever heard the phrase: the days are long but the years are short? I remember hearing that when I was in the thick of diapers and tantrums and rolling my eyes hard. The minutes were long, the days were endless and I didn’t know how we would make it through the years. Now that I’ve got children in high school and I can’t look at their baby photos without crying, I can clearly see the truth in the saying.

Those early days were a lopsided combination of sweet and sour that blurred together. Then one day, you wake up and realize that your babies aren’t babies. And now what? You’re faced with big kids and then teenagers and dang it, you didn’t read the book on how to tackle this part of parenting!

I’ve been through this game a few times. I’ve raised two children in to their teenage years and I have four more racing to get there. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and focused on the wrong things. I’ve also figured out what really made a difference in the early years and has served my children well into their teen years.

Here are some easy things that you can do now that will have a big payoff when your kids hit their teen years.