As summer gave way to fall, my home turned from tranquil and relaxed to crazy and chaotic. It's easy to peacefully parent when there is no alarm clock and no pressure to do anything. Is there any way to keep the zen when kids go back to school and afternoons are filled with sports, music lessons, clubs and homework? When every night is a bedtime battle and every morning is a rush to start the daily crush you need some help. Here are a five ways to bring harmony into your home.
1. Start everything 10-15 minutes earlier
Everything is calm; it's been an easy morning and now it's time to get to school. Your tone changes, octave raises, blood pressure rises. Getting out of the house causes unprecedented stress for those hanging with the 18 and under crowd. There is one simple solution. Start everything 10 minutes earlier. I am not a morning person, but long ago realized there is not much of a difference in my overall sleep if I drag myself outta bed at 7:00 a.m. vs. 7:15. However, the difference when leaving the house with that extra 15 minutes is enormous! Wiggle time calms me down and overall peace prevails. On mornings when I push snooze, those extra 9-18 minutes in bed are the devil's payment. We wind up in the car miserable and arrive at school weary from the stress of getting out the door. Morning time being particularly fraught, we can all use an extra few minutes to wrangle kids out of the house.
2. Be consistent
What drives you nuts, pushes you to nag and makes you loose your mind? Shoes and jackets thrown on the floor when the kids come home? Backpacks tossed in the living room instead of unpacked with lunch boxes in the sink and homework on the counter? Maybe it's the lights left on, pajamas on the floor or jumping on the couch. Whatever your "kryptonite" is, you need to identify it STAT. You can't and don't want to fully regulate life. But, having young people in your home making you nuts day after day about the same 3 things is silly. There is a middle ground. Pick a few of the "if I have to tell you one more time I will loose my mind" items and make those non-negotiable. My kids know they need to put their shoes and coats away, unpack their backpacks & lunchboxes and wash their hands when they get home from school. Do not ask for a snack or go on the computer unless these things are done. It takes consistency and training to achieve cooperation so be patient. It also takes a good dose of realism. Do not set your kids up for failure by making their "must do list" too long or inclusive of tasks they can't yet handle.
3. Pick your battles
Peaceful parenting isn't possible when our day is littered with battles. Pick only a few worth fighting for and let the rest go. Your daughter decides that while she only wore dresses all last year, she will now only wear leggings and sneakers. Every day. 100 days in a row. Your son argues a PHD worthy dissertation on why he shouldn't have to wear a coat to school. They no longer like the previously adored mango and don't care that you got four at the market yesterday. When you feel peace turning into war, ask yourself these three questions:
Is everyone safe?
Will it be detrimental to someone's health if I allow this request?
Is this battle worth it?
I could not take the jacket battle anymore. When my son turned 10 I told him in the winter a jacket is a must. But, in the spring and fall, if he wants to be chilly at morning recess that's his choice. My daughter wears the clothes she wants with one caveat, her outfit must be weather appropriate. These are two battles I could stand to loose for peace in our home. I put my white flag in the ground and haven't looked back.
4. Take a Timeout
At times, we all need a little time to reclaim our calm. Sometimes a yoga class, dinner and drinks with the girls, movie night or a quick coffee date don't make it into the week. If you feel yourself unraveling, call for help. If a babysitter isn't an option, give yourself a "time out." Order pizza or make breakfast for dinner, put on a movie, (the longest you have) and let the kids have movie night while you exit the room. If conflict with your children is escalating, it's OK to tell them that you are not happy with what is happening and you are going to take a break. It's better to take a breather than yell and scream and loose your cool. It's also a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids by example. Show them that everyone needs to take a step back sometimes. Highlight that a time out isn't a punishment; it's a helpful break.
5. Schedule unscheduled time
Give your family a break. We are all over scheduled; we barely have a moment that isn't accounted for. Leave ½ of your weekend free of plans. If that isn't possible, how about just half of one day? Decide with your kids what they want to do Saturday morning, on Saturday morning. So much time is spent on the move, even when no one feels like moving. Living life on a constant hamster wheel creates stress and unease. Free time is essential and free play fosters creativity, learning and growth while down time becomes bonding time. It's hard for peace to find you when you are constantly on the go. Stay still and sit for a while.