I became a parent educator a few years ago and started a moms ministry at my church for one reason. I wanted moms to be free to experience the joy that comes from being a mother. I heard from many moms who said they were completely overwhelmed with the work, their kids were making them crazy and they couldn't wait for them to grow up. That made me sad because I truly believe that being a mother is the most rewarding job you can have and with the right tools it doesn't have to be frustrating and annoying, but rather joyful and fulfilling. I was asked to give a class on this very topic...how to enjoy your kids....and here are the tips I gave the moms who came.
HAVE A PLAN....
Plan your housework, plan your meals, plan your days, plan for time to just enjoy your kids.
~This entails a housework schedule...you can do a little each day (I do housework from 7-10 am), or you can do one big clean a week, such as Saturday morning (this works for working mothers). Also plan your errand day...groceries, etc.
~Planning your meals requires making a menu once a week, shopping ONCE for groceries and following your plan. Not only does it save you money, but, it really is frustrating to just wing your dinners every night. Time consuming and no fun!
~Plan your days...Make a weekly schedule of work that needs to be done and also the fun that needs to be had. For instance, when my kids were all little in the summer, Tuesdays were library day, Thursdays were park day, Wednesdays were errand day, Mondays were field trip day (zoo, museums, historical sites, etc).
~Plan your downtime...this is time spent reading on the front porch, doing puzzles together, painting pictures...something quiet that is just about being together. Afternoons are a good time for this, especially if little ones are napping.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO BEHAVE...
It is never enjoyable to take kids anywhere or do anything with them if they won't listen to you or behave in a proper manner. So, what do you do?
~Unbendable rules. Certain rules never change and must always be followed. For instance, I NEVER let a child out of a stroller or shopping cart until they are at least 4 and longer if they can't listen when I am doing something that is a chore...i.e. grocery shopping. All kids under 4 ride in the cart. They go directly from carseat to shopping cart and are never allowed to walk in the store. You may have to do several dry runs at this if your kids are not good shoppers. Leave the store if they act up and go directly to their rooms. Errands and grocery shopping are jobs not fun. Do not feel bad for making your little ones ride it out in the cart, it shortens the task for everyone. There were times I had 4 or 5 kids in carts and had to push one cart and pull another, but it was worth it!
~Kids who don't listen. You wouldn't take a dog out that wouldn't come when called and kids are smarter than dogs. Perfect obedience means that when you are speaking, they are listening and obeying. If not, there are consequences. Leave the park immediately, leave the restaurant, leave the play date, etc.
If you are yelling all the time, your kids are not listening. Lower your voice and insist on obedience, if not, immediate consequence. Most of the time, time out or being sent to their rooms will work. You will have to physically get up and direct your child to what you are asking them to do. Walk them to the time out corner or their room. Make sure you follow through, every single time.
~ALL KIDS NEED REST AND SO DOES MOM!
Even if your child has outgrown naps, you can still insist on a quiet time each day..(ours is after lunch...even our teens have to go do something quiet, read, play a quiet game, etc.) They do not have to go to sleep, but they do have to be still and quiet. Reading, coloring, workbooks, etc. We don't have movies on during this time because the point is quiet and alone with your thoughts. We have a bin of quiet activities for each child. Quiet time is spent alone or there is no quiet if you know what I mean. I separate everyone. One on a couch, one on their bed, one in the living room. Do not feel bad about this either...even kindergartens still have naptime. Everyone needs to chill.
~KIDS NOT RESPECTING THE HOME
This is the how to keep your house picked up tip...
1. Get rid of toys that just make messes and no one plays with. These are closed ended toys that just get dumped every day and no one touches again. Out they go.
2. Only keep toys that use imagination...best bets~~blocks, legos, dollhouses, animal figures, dolls, cars, trains, sports equipment, art supplies, dress up, tea sets, bikes, sidewalk chalk.
3. Put each category of toy in a bin with a lid and a label or picture. At the end of playtime, all toys are placed back in their bins, BY THE KIDS!, and put away on a shelf or in a closet. Some toys like legos that scatter and breed, have to be checked out, picked up and put away before another bin is brought out.
4. As a book lover, I have a hard time with this one...kids can make huge messes with books. They like to read books over and over and are not even really looking at the ones they throw on the floor. Give them each a basket with no more than 10 books and put the rest away. You can exchange them out each week or two.
5. Some activities are only done at the kitchen table...art, playdough, and sometimes puzzles so the pieces don't get lost.
6. Keep games put away or they will be scattered all the time.
7. Limit the amount of clothing your child has...more clothing = more laundry. Yuck! If you have a costume changer..then put the clothes away and make her use her costumes!
8. There is nothing wrong with keeping little ones out of certain rooms. If your kids routinely make a mess in their room or the bathroom, keep the doors shut and locked. There is no rule that says your toddlers and preschoolers have to have access to every room in your house.
BIGGEST TIP OF ALL....
Teach your children to do chores. I hear people all the time say to me, "you are so lucky to have older kids to help." Well, they weren't always older and I had to teach the to help. At one time I had 6 kids under 7. I have been where you are and I know how to make it easier, I have had practice.
Kids as young as 3 can do chores...pick up toys, push in chairs, sweep with little brooms.
Make a chore chart that includes daily and weekly chores for each child. Put stickers on for each job completed.
Make sure your kids do their jobs so that they grow into helpers, not loafers.
NOTHING RUINS YOUR FUN LIKE LUNATICS RUNNING THE ASYLUM!
~You are in charge of your home, not the kids. They really don't want control, even though they fight for it. A kid who runs a household is not a happy kid, believe me. They want limits, they want to know that YOU are in charge. That makes a happy child.
It might seem like a lot of work to put all these things into practice. It will take some time and effort, but the rewards are huge. No longer will you feel like you are racing to catch up with your kids every day and always one step behind, but rather like you are directing the smooth running of a happy home.
A little effort when your kids are young, will reap great rewards when they are older. You want your kids to listen to you now, because it will be extremely difficult to get them to listen later if they never learned.
Best of wishes...it truly is my goal that all mothers feel the joy and contentment they are meant to feel in their vocation as mothers. Feel free to comment if you have other tips or helpful links.
In his Grace,