A Parenting Checklist to Curb Chaos
By Amy McCready, author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic
Are you one of “us”? You know, the parents who make endless to-do lists in an attempt to make our chaotic lives just a little more manageable? Life with kids is certain to include curveballs so having a “parenting to-do list” can keep things from getting out of hand and actually improve your kids’ behavior! (How’s that for a win-win?) Here are ten simple to-do items for raising well-behaved kids and keeping parenting burn-out at bay.
1. Make daily investments. The number one thing you can do to raise happy, cooperative, even joyful kids is invest in one-on-one time with them every day. Here’s why: kids are hard-wired to want and need positive attention from you. And when they don’t get that in positive ways? They will seriously act out in negative ways – because to them, attention is attention. My favorite tool to give kids what they want and need most (your attention and a sense of belonging) while simultaneously preventing tantrums, sibling fighting, whining and more is called Mind, Body and Soul Time. Here’s how it works: Set aside 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day to spend with your child one-on-one with NO distractions. No phones, no checking email, no multi-tasking. This is a time to be completely present doing whatever your child loves to do. Think reading books, coloring, playing dress-up, or swinging on a swing. The key is to make it all about them. When you invest the one-on-one time, you give them the gifts of feeling loved, safe, secure, and valued. And, you’ll get that investment of time back 10-fold in good behavior!
2. Hit the Snooze Button. In other words…get serious about sleep. When we’re overtired we’re irritable, cranky, and sometimes even feel ill. It’s the same for kids. In fact, most kids need MORE sleep than they’re getting because their bodies are growing at such a rapid clip. Talk to your pediatrician about how much sleep your child really needs by age. If your child has a sleep deficit, try moving up bedtime by 10 minutes every few nights. When kids are well rested, they’ll be better behaved, be more attentive in school, and be A LOT more fun to be around!
3. Make Routines Rule. When it comes to managing the most challenging parts of your day like mornings, mealtimes, bedtimes and after school – routines are your best friends. Kids thrive on them – and they help make everything run a whole lot smoother. Let your kids help decide how the routine will go (do we get dressed or brush teeth first? How can you help get dinner ready?) For little ones, write out the order of the routine using pictures or words and let them decorate it and hang it where they’ll see it every day. Then – help them (and you) stick to it.
4. Get Everyone to Be ALL-IN. The best run households with the most time for fun are those in which EVERYONE – from parents right on down to toddlers – contribute to the household responsibilities. You are a team. Not parents vs. kids. Not parents do it all. All kids, from toddlers to teens, should have “family contributions” (not “chores!”) that they do daily. This helps bring your family closer together, teaches kids important life skills and works to prevent the entitlement epidemic.
5. Refuse to Referee. As tough as it is to not jump into the middle of every sibling squabble, the reality is we parents often make things worse when we intervene. When we play referee, assess blame and dole out punishments, we set our kids up to see winners and losers – and a reason to escalate sibling rivalry. Instead, encourage your kids to find a resolution and even common ground on their own. If things are escalating out of control and you have to get involved, don’t choose sides, but ask questions to help them figure out a solution that all parties can feel good about. By refusing to referee and setting your sights on SOLUTIONS, you’ll go a long way in preparing them to resolve conflict throughout their lives.
. That’s good advice for most aspects of life, right? When it comes to family “rules and regulations,” simple is always better. Kids get overwhelmed with too many rules and consequences. Determine the most important issues for your family and clearly communicate the expectations – without being overly complicated. Be sure to reveal consequences in advance and then stand firm. Kids want and need firm and loving limits.
7. Take a Time Out from the Time-Out. “That’s it, you’re in time-out!” How many parents have uttered that phrase over and over and have been frustrated because it doesn’t work to actually change behavior? Why? Because sitting in a corner or on a time-out chair doesn’t help kids understand how to make better choices. It doesn’t teach them how to do anything differently next time. And for most strong willed kids, time-outs are the training grounds for serious push-back. Instead, focus on training, not punishment. Ask, “What can we do differently next time?” and role play the do-over.
8. Say No to NO. Kids – especially the young ones - are all about the questions. All day. Every day. And more often than not, our go-to answer is “no”. It’s usually for good reason (it’s midnight and the park is closed); but kids get frustrated with a constant stream of no’s. Not to mention that too many no’s creates a situation ripe for a power struggle. Look for opportunities to say “yes” when you can. If your child wants to go to a movie and it’s not convenient right then, try, “Hey, a movie sounds like fun! Should we go Friday after daycare or on Saturday afternoon?” Will there be times when the answer is a big “no”? Sure, but the more yes’s we can sprinkle in to the mix, the more palatable the no’s will seem to our kids!
9. Watch your energy. Which “YOU” do you want your kids to see? Do you want them to see you as the joyful, fun, lighthearted parent or the one who’s in a constant state of stress and irritation? What they see is what you’ll get as kids will often set their tone by ours. Try changing your energy by simply smiling more. It will help you remain calm in times of stress, and your kids will notice and keep their behavior more positive as well.
10. Consider the Source. Misbehavior is always telling us something. For example, if Jacob keeps pestering you at your desk, could it be that you’ve been there all day and he needs a little Mind, Body and Soul Time? Or, if Kayla throws a royal fit about wearing the RED shoes that totally don’t go with her outfit – perhaps she really wants to make her own choices and feel independent? Before you get worked up about a particular misbehavior, consider what the child is trying to tell you so you can focus on SOLUTIONS to solve the problem. You’ll all feel a lot better for it!
Keep these ten tips handy to bring out the best in your kids and keep parenting chaos at bay!
You can learn more about curbing entitlement and chaos while encouraging cooperation by picking up a copy of Amy’s new book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Available August 11, 2015 wherever books are sold.
Get FREE COACHING with Amy McCready when you pre-order The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. Learn more at www.AmyMcCready.com.