Since we brought home our 4th child about 7 weeks ago, (and really even before that) our family life has been a hodgepodge of inconsistencies. We had bits and pieces of daily routines that shifted and changed based on our mood, so the kids frequently responded to the chaos and unpredictability with disobedience.
My husband and I found ourselves yelling and disciplining nearly constantly. We were in a state of constant stress and we didn’t even like being around our kids.
That is slowly changing. I’ve had a lot of help and encouragement from my Mama mentor in creating structure and routine and in parenting my children in such a way that they see Christ in my husband and me, and not just two screaming idiots who don’t like them.
I have to say, the first few days were REALLY difficult and breaking the bad habits of poor child training and lackadaisical parenting proved a lot harder than I thought. Being a consistent parent takes a LOT of effort and intentionality. I had to break my bad habits too- shouting commands from the other room instead of being present with the kids and showing them what I expected. Barking orders is easy, but entirely ineffective.
My first step to regaining order was a master family schedule. We had a natural rhythm, but it was inconsistent, sort of like a heartbeat with a murmur. So I took our rhythm and synced it with my daily goals.
What needed to be accomplished? What did I hope to accomplish but lacked the time? What things were obstacles to consistency and routine maintenance in the house?
I used the template passed on to me by my mentor and plugged in our names and tailored the schedule to our needs and goals. Each family member has a color coded list of activities.
Finishing chores and getting the kids dressed and changed was a HUGE time drain. Today wasn’t much different but we are still in the training phase of implementing our Chorepacks. Chorepacks, for those unfamiliar with the term, are a system of chore management for kids developed by Steve and Terri Maxwell of Titus 2 Ministries. You can purchase their book complete with Chorepacks system here. The Chorepacks help keep them focused and on task to eliminate distraction and cut chore time down. It also breeds consistency. And even though my daughter fights it, it was helpful to look at her chorepack and easily figure out which step she was on and which child had accomplished which tasks. I forsee it getting easier as routine is established and the kids get used to the packs.
Right now I have a Chorepack for meal times, which instructs setting up and cleaning up tasks step by step with pictures for my pre-readers. And I have separate daily Chorepacks for morning and bedtime. We call the bedtime ones “Bedtime business” and the morning ones “Morning chores.” Basically, I’m responsible for filling their Chorepacks with the appropriate chore sequence. Then I call them to me and the kids clip on their packs and begin their ordered tasks. Then my job turns to supervisor/manager as I help and oversee their completion of their Chorepacks. This frees me up to tend to the babies and make sure everything gets done.
Friends, I’ve gotten so much more of my to-do list to-done in the past week! We have actually finished our school lessons 2 days in a row! And we are on pace with each child’s lessons. Not only that, but putting the schedule in place has opened up and organized my time to spend one on one time with the children, complete my housework, handle any household business or appointments, and help my husband when he needs it.
The absolutely hardest part is starting and knowing where to begin. I suggest listing your family’s activities and goals and working out a schedule. From there, implement a solid system for completion of the household chores. Beyond that, it’s all about consistency and training.
We have spent the better part of 6 weeks training (or un/retraining) the children for obedience. It has been the most stressful and difficult task I’ve ever taken on. That said, today, we only had to put them back to bed one time in the wee morning hours instead of 6 times. Naptime for my youngest son was still a battle royal, but 3 out of 4 successful nappers isn’t too shabby. They have mostly learned now to wait on their beds until we wake them at 7:00AM. AND the greatest thing- when the kids make a mistake or disobey, they come to me and tenderly say, “I’m sorry Mama, I made a bad choice.” We’ve been able to respond with tenderness, and they are beginning to take ownership of their behavior and choices. They respect me, and they feel safe and comfortable around me. That totally trumps them cowering in fear as I bellow orders and heap my anger on their tiny heads. The book, To Train Up a Child goes into more detail on that and biblical child training and discipline, I only wish I had it before I ever had children.
As a society, I believe we largely fail to teach the next generation how to be good parents. We teach them about all manner of other things, but fail them in equipping them to shape and mould their children to be godly little souls. That is a travesty! Thank God I have my mentor to lean into and to absorb knowledge and wisdom. God was so gracious to bless me with a great support system, praise Yah!
I expect it will get a little easier with each passing day and with continued consistency in implementation. I pray God continues to work in my family, and I hope my experience helps you shape your own family’s rhythm.