Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Managing a 'tribe' of children. Or how do you do it?*

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “You’ve got your hands full”, I would be a rich woman. Walking the streets with my little family in tow is getting to be a health hazard. Lots of people ask me: “how do you do it?”. I just have to of course, but some days it is a real struggle just to get from breakfast to dinner (without throttling at least one child).

Over the last 5 years I have learnt a thing or two that makes being the Mum of three gorgeous boys and a fantastic girl a more enjoyable task. I am no expert, and there are many Mums out there with much more on their plates than me, but these things work for me so I thought I would share some of them with you.

1. As much as I rebelled against it at first, routine has made my life a lot easier. When children know what to expect, there is less questioning and more doing and that means that we all get through our daily chores in a more peaceful manner. Recently, I started a ‘Morning routine checklist’ for my Kindergarten-aged boy and that has made him more independent and created a less stressful environment for everybody. You should try using one if you don’t already.

2. I try to give attention to the children who are doing the right thing, rather than the ones who are not. I find this means that the kids don’t usually misbehave just to get my attention.

3. I am acutely aware that each child needs to spend time with me (or my husband) alone. I do this through a variety of means including incidental one on one time and planned one on one time. We stagger the kids’ bedtimes, make use of the daytime naps that the twins are still having and split activities at the weekend when both parents are around. I am also working on a few family ‘rituals’ around birthdays and other important days so that each child has input into family celebrations and ways to feel special.

4. I have had to lower my expectations about the state of the house. I know this is hard for many women, but it has really made my life a lot less stressful. I focus on the essentials of housework only (washing clothes, doing the dishes, cleaning the toilets –did I say I had 3 boys?- tidying up toys and a ‘hot spot’ declutter for 5 minutes a day). The floors and bathrooms get a good clean once a fortnight (by my cleaner who I scrimp and save to pay for) and the rest is done only when the mess drives me nuts.

5. While I have very limited ‘me’ time, I do exercise 3 times a week. Just 30-45 mins (usually running), which I do early in the morning before the children are awake. Honestly, I think this has been the difference between going insane and being fairly in control. Eating well is easier for me when I exercise. I have more energy. I am less tense. I am a nicer person to be around. It is totally worth making the effort.

So there you have it. My top five tips for managing a tribe. Well, that’s how I do it anyway.

What things do you find helpful for your family? Do you have any organisation tips that you could share with us (Note: I give no advice about organisation as this is definitely not my forte)?



*This post was first posted on A dose of Dannie in October 2010.

12 comments:

Mum on the Run said...

I take my hat off to you - four times over!!
:-)

danneromero said...

well said.
Routine is key. Praising good behavior helps others learn to also be good. Alone time is a must. A bit of a mess feels lived in. And YOU time.. definitely..

ronetta cheryll said...

i love this post. i promise, this is definitely a post i will keep in mind (and probably link to) for when my motherly time comes...hats off to you :)

I'm So Fancy said...

Routines! My mother fully did not understand but she never had two babies at once! Routines make everyone happy. They are flexible but they are mine. And yes to me time, lowered expectations and praise. But especially the alone time. It always sort of shocks me at how calm and lovely the Minis are when it's just one of them. Because the rest of the time they are like hummingbirds with 47 fingers.

Alison said...

I work in a school where the importance of routine is crucial to the kids. They do have learning difficulties but I think routine works well for all children.
We also go for the positives. A well used phrase at school is 'I really like you but I don't like your behaviour/what you are doing right now.
Sounds like you are doing a great job. Your children will thank you when they're older.

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

I think you are amazing :)

River said...

I also raised four, two boys, two girls and you're right, routine and organisation are the keys to a happy family. For me, "me time" was reading, every single day, usually when the kids were having "quiet time" which for them meant sitting with a book....
I usually left the toy tidying until the end of the day, (just before dinner) when the oldest one would grab a broom and sweep all the toys along the passage and into the spare room, then shut the door on it.

sascedar said...

these are great tipe- I'm looking forward to running again, maybe when my boobs aren't busy.

cityhippyfarmgirl said...

Toilets...boys...I so hear you. A constant residual pong.

Erin said...

I agree, great points. I love my excel spreadsheets, organisation is crucial. Routine, teaching your children helping skills and a lot of love:)

Janelle said...

I concur. The essential list! Wish I had it when I was still pregnant, hahaha. Thank you for sharing, I'm now going to share the link to this post to my mum friends!

Seana Smith said...

Oh, I am so not on top of lots of things with my four... I never, ever feel that they get enough 1:1 time. Just had hubby away for two weeks and here we are with no aunties or uncles or grannies around. There just are not enough adults in my kids' lives and it makes me feel all weepy.

I get so much bad behaviour which is totally attention seeking... must, must, must try harder to focus on the positive... well, will have lots of opportunity tomorrow for that... four children at home on a wet day and so much needs to get done before we whizz away.

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