I don't often write posts about how to raise kids, because most of us are doing the best we can with what we're given. I'm no expert, and I don't feel like I have authority to tell anyone how to discipline, encourage or support their children. What works for some may not work for others.
That being said, there are a few guidelines I have always followed. I've discovered a few tricks that worked wonders on my kids. I have four, and I remember the glaze-y eyed baby and toddler days when I was so exhausted I couldn't see straight.
It's tough, and every mom is different. Our patience levels vary, our need for time away is not the same. When my first baby was born, I was by the book with feeding and sleep schedules. I was strict and I followed all the "rules." With my second, I was more lax. My third? Survival mode. Fourth? Toss her in the carseat and off we go.
All of my kids were born under different circumstances. But all of them were held to the same expectations. I also used the same techniques to get them to behave outside the home. And it worked like a charm.
I am no expert, my kids get into trouble and make bad choices. But I have always been able to take them to the store, to the mall, to a ball game or a party. The key to my sanity was training them to do what I wanted, not bending myself around what they wanted.
They're all still here, they're all happy, and so far no one hates my guts. One day I may realize I didn't know squat, but so far I've made out pretty well on the parenting thing.
1. Sleep is important. Food is equally important. If you are looking for an annoying, patience trying outing bring your kids to the store hungry and right before naptime. I never (if I could help it) went anywhere when it was time to lay down. Kids need consistency, parents do too. Even if your kids refuse a nap, "quiet time" is mandatory.
Three meals a day, and two snacks in between with a nap after lunch was my regime. Errands were after breakfast, we were home in the afternoons for naps. Every single day.
There is nothing more difficult than wrangling a tantrum throwing toddler while grabbing milk at the grocery store. Save yourself the headache and stick to a schedule. Ever notice how kids love to watch the same shows over and over and over again? They like to know what is next.
The same schedule every day works wonders.
2. Tell your children what is expected of them before they leave the car. If we were going to the grocery store, I would park and announce to all tiny ears, "We are here for _______. We are NOT buying anything other than _______. NO ONE WALKS (see #3). Does everyone understand? "
My kids went into every store knowing exactly what was about to go down. There were no surprises. Occasionally they were allowed to pick a candy at the register. This was always a last minute treat, because if I announced it beforehand they would ask every few seconds we were in the store.
3. No one walks. Do yourself a favor and make this rule mandatory. For some of you it's too late; for those of you who are pregnant or your babies are in carseats, I beg you to follow this one simple rule. It's for safety and for sanity.
No one walks. All kids small enough to ride in the cart ride. If you have a stroller use it. Life is so much easier when kids are restrained. They can't touch things, no one will steal them and they can't walk off without you.
Once your kids know they ride, it's not a battle. I promise.
For kids who walk? If you can't touch the cart, stroller or someone in the group you are too far away. Every so often stop and ask if your child can touch you. It's a good reminder they need to walk close.
4. Bring drinks and snacks. Everywhere. Do not leave your house without a juice pouch, sip cup, bottle of water or other child friendly beverage. Toss a snack in your purse too. Even if you are going to the post office and you just had lunch I can promise someone will complain they are thirsty.
I know this from experience.
If you are hoping your kids will behave for a long while? Bring games, drinks and even more snacks. Parenting is about being prepared. The more prepared you are the less chaos you will experience.
5. Manners are mandatory. If I ask my teenager if he wants a pop tart and his answer is "no" I immediately correct him with "no thank you." Sometimes I correct my kids a hundred times a day. Sometimes very few. The key is constantly correcting them.
If you want anything you say "please." If you don't want something you say "no thank you." My kids can be little poop stains but they know how to speak politely. This was a rule from the day they could understand how to ask for something.
I also remind my kids not to be annoying. This may sound like a strange one, but I have always stuck to my guns. I hate noise, which seems odd considering I have a big family. But if someone is loud, I tell them I'm right next to them. No need to yell. If someone is making an annoying noise just to hear themselves? I tell them it's annoying. I want my kids to understand how to be respectful in other people's space.
Don't stand so close someone can feel your breath. Don't make noise for no reason. If you want to run and yell get outside. I want my kids to be welcome in other people's homes, and teaching them what is and is not "appropriate" is important to me. Some parents are much more lax in this arena, I just know what I need in order to feel like I'm not losing my marbles.
Don't get me wrong, my kids play and make noise. They laugh and we have fun. I just pump the brakes on running through the house hitting eachother with light sabers.
I'm not a professional child raiser, and I raise my brow to anyone who claims to be. We are all climbing the same mountain, and there are many ways to the top. These five basic guidelines kept me sane and enabled me the freedom to go to the store in peace.
Yes there were days my kids didn't behave. I still have those days. But with consistency and a sense of humor I'm still trucking. My kids are happy, my days are harmonious and my kids know not to bang and make noise in the house.
Happy Monday all!