This is my family. We have seven kids; four are grown and out of the house, two are married, and we have two grand babies. Life has been busy for many years for this mama. I understand overwhelmed, stressed, and tired, but it’s such a great life!
No matter your family size, the wildly fast pace of our culture today is exhausting. Parents can very quickly feel like we’re failing at what matters most because we’re so compelled by the urgent needs that come with managing a busy household. How can we possibly have time to enjoy life with our kids? Is it really possible to cherish the moments with our family, even in the fast lane? I’d like to share some time management strategies for the busy mama and her busy tribe.
1. “No means no” and other ways words must mean what words mean. (This first tip is a long one but this is so important, so try to hang in there with me.)
How much time does your family lose because your kids ignore what you say, followed by you trying over and over again to get the kids to do what they need to do? You’ve tried so hard to patiently tell them multiple times, and then wind up being at your whits’ end as so much time was consumed by a power-struggle over what should be the simplest things.
My dear fellow mama, I’d like to show you an UNCOMPLICATED and VERY EFFECTIVE WAY to increase your child’s respect for your word. There’s a change you can make that will decrease parental stress, kid whining, manipulation and begging; and it can result in kids doing what they’re told the first time.
Here it is: Mean what you say or don’t say it. In other words, YOU need to respect your word if you want your children to. Try to develop a personal parent motto of “Say it ONCE, then ENFORCE.” If you tell a child, “stop it” or “let’s go” or “pick up after yourself” (just some examples of things moms commonly say), if you tell them any of these things but then let them ignore you or delay, you’re sending some very mixed messages which is creating some very unwanted habits in them as well as some negative beliefs about your words in their minds. You are making life more difficult for you and your kids by not clearly saying what you mean and then following up with it after the first time you say it. As the parent, you need to enforce what you’ve said completely, consistently, and confidently. If you’re not willing to do that, then don’t say it.
Strengthening the power of your voice requires that you:
*Slow down to give your words the attention they deserve.
*Think before you speak and make sure you’re willing to enforce your words after the first time you say it.
*Make sure your child is really listening before you start talking (eye contact is a key in making sure they’re listening).
*Give clear instructions that are reasonable for your child’s age and ability.
*Having them repeat back to you what you asked them to do, coupled with the eye contact that I already mentioned, insures that neither of you have an excuse to renege.
*Hold to compliance to your word even when it is inconvenient for you to do so. (At our house, we also include the ATTITUDE of their actions as an equal value in following through. Learning that a negative attitude creates negative results, we just try to steer clear of whining, complaining, eye rolling, etc. Once a child gets out of that habit, you will see an improvement in relationships, in achievements, and definitely an improvement in how much time it takes to complete a task).
All of these actions are what makes up the parental life-skill of Making Your Voice Matter. “Say it ONCE, then ENFORCE” will save you loads of time in the long run, once you’ve given your kids a chance to see that “a new mom is in town and this one means what she says.” If you want your kids to experience a blessed and successful life, at some point they’ve got to learn to honor the person in authority, whether it’s a boss, a teacher, or a police officer. The younger you help them develop this into a success habit, the quicker they’ll start reaping the rewards that are available to them from all kinds of life situations. My grown daughter has done a great job of this with her little guys. Our twenty-month-old grandson, James, already enjoys the peace and blessings that come from honoring his mom and dad’s “no” or “wait” or “say ‘please’ first.” Give your children the gift of choosing joy and follow-through by being a parent who means what you say!
If you verbally make family rules and then you don’t enforce them, you’re simply teaching your kids to disregard your word, and, honestly, it affects how much respect they have for you. It is hard to respect someone whose words are worthless even to the one saying them. So, be more careful, parents, to only say it if you mean it. If you say it, then follow through with it, after you say it ONCE.
As parents, it’s great to say “yes” as much as you can, but when you say “no,” “no means no.” Otherwise your “no” means, “beg more and mom might let you.” Or when you ask them to do something but you don’t follow-up on whether they followed-through, you’re teaching your kids that “If I ignore what Mom told me to do, then I probably won’t end up having to do it.” Is this instilling qualities in your kids that you really want them to have?
Save your family plenty of arguing, nagging, confusion, and frustration by being CLEAR with what you say, and then CONSISTENTLY enforce COMPLETE follow-through. The level of peace will increase in your home by leaps and bounds! Yay for Consistent MOM!
2. Perfection is the Worst!
It’s so time-consuming and emotionally draining to set a standard of perfection for yourself. Since perfection isn’t possible, you essentially set yourself up for feeling like a failure at a non-attainable standard. Especially if the task you’re working on is not connected to a relationship, then it really doesn’t deserve so much pressure. Yes, we should do quality work and represent ourselves, our family, and our God well as we put our signature on anything we do, but at the end of our lives, what matters most are the memories we’ve made and the relationships we’ve given time to; so, please, please, don’t waste time and emotional stress on being a failing perfectionist! Do your BEST within BALANCE and learn to be CONTENT with that.
This is a great example to set for your kids as well. If you are raising a little detailed person, he can easily set his expectations at “perfect” and find himself constantly struggling to 1- START the project because he’s afraid he won’t do it perfectly, 2- FINISH a task because it’s not yet perfect, and 3- FEEL CONTENT with what he accomplished because it could still be better. If you have a young perfectionist at your house, they’re probably also the one who takes forever to get something done. Model a better perspective for them, and teach them to “Do your BEST with BALANCE and learn to be CONTENT with that.” (Can you tell that I speak from experience, not only in my own life, but my husband and one son and one daughter are all similar in this regard. Yikes!)
3. “Teamwork makes the dream work.” It’s a popular saying for a reason.
Teamwork is good for a family because
*it makes your busy family life more doable when everyone chips in and helps
*work is GOOD FOR KIDS
*working TOGETHER is bonding for a family.
From everyone cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, to remodeling a room, to working on the yard, hard work is good for the soul and doing it together is good for the soul of the family.
This is one of my favorite pictures of a family work day. My husband had told the boys to help him chop some wood, clean up the woodpile, and get a bonfire prepped. My son Nathan (the lumber jack in the picture) was always finding funny personalities to be as he grew up. You never knew if he was going to spend a month talking with an Australian accent, being an old man walking with a cane, or trying to be the cook from the Muppets but one thing was for sure — he’d always find a fun way to do things, even work. While he had outgrown these clever interpretations, for the most part, on this day he gave us a little nod to his earlier years. In the background is our son, Josh, who is our sarcastic practical jokester. Clearly, he’s trying to illustrate that this is very hard work and that throwing your head back and closing your eyes is a great way to saw a log. (Don’t try this at home, it’s not a good idea. But don’t worry, he wasn’t really sawing at the moment, he just wanted to make a fun memory for the camera). Along with developing many important character qualities, hard work as a team can be great bonding for a family. Give your kids a vision of teamwork and get in there and get things done together!
4. RE-EVALUATE What You’re Working For: It’s so easy to feel the pressure of time without really evaluating how we’re using our time. I’m guilty of that as well. Are we using it on what we really care about most or have we just kind of gotten into a groove and are mindlessly “stuck” in it? With our mouth we say, “I’m too busy, I need a break” all while we are working more and more hours to pay for nice cars, big TVs and the cable bills that go with them, the latest iPhones, and eating at expensive restaurants. If you or your spouse has the option to cut some employment hours by cutting out some big-ticket items, then do so!
The time you would’ve spent working to pay for those luxuries, replace that with family time that is free but truly rewarding such as volunteering as a family (we go to a nursing home once a month to play games with the residents and just visit with them, for example), or invite a family over who could use a blessing in their lives (an activity that has become almost obsolete), and you’ll find yourselves blessed as well.
5. Save your Sanity Meal Prep
If you have heard of freezer cooking but don’t have time, I’ve got a one hour a week plan for you! CLICK HERE for meal prep that can make it more possible for kids to help AND will also save you lots of time in the kitchen!
6. Papers To-Go
It’s time to take control of your mail and all the papers that come as a constant stream into your house. Here’s my motto for helping with this issue: “ONE and DONE”
For about twenty years I’ve been a Mary Kay consultant. For several of those years I was a director who drove a free car (I earned four free cars to be exact, and did this all while homeschooling my children). I don’t tell you that to brag, but just to let you know that that kind of accomplishment is doable only with some serious time management. I learned a lot of great time control strategies during my years in Mary Kay training, including a paper plan called, “One and Done.”
“ONE and DONE” means touch a paper once and deal with it completely right then. The way I implement that at my house includes my mail basket. All mail and papers should go directly into your mail basket. Resist the urge to thumb through all those papers unless you really have time to deal with them. Once a day or every couple of days, take your mail basket along with the following items:
1) File Folders labeled “Bills” “Events” “Important Documents to Process” “Coupons” “Things of Interest”
2) Family Calendar
3) Bill Calendar
4) To-Do Notebook
As you pick up each item out of the basket, determine right then how to “pile” it. It will either go in the Recycle pile, in the Bills pile, Events pile, Important Documents pile, Coupons pile, or in the Things of Interest pile.
Once you’ve sorted all the papers into those six piles, you’re ready to deal them! *Take the Events pile and add each event to your Family Calendar. If you want to keep the paper as an information reference then place it in the Events Folder. *Enter all of the bills into the Bill Calendar and then place them in the Bills folder until they’ve been paid; *Add the important documents to process to my to-do list followed by placing them in their folder OR process them right then.
This is a picture of my TO-DO LIST notebook. I start a new page each day and move the items forward from the day before that didn’t get done. I have a similar one that is my CHORES notebook. Let’s say I’m walking through the kitchen, see the microwave and say to myself, “Oh my, there are so many finger prints on the front of the microwave that it looks like an octopus was playing tic tac toe!” Well, I simply write “front of microwave” in the CHORES notebook. Then each day when I make the kids’ chores, I add those items to the list or add it to my own chore list for me, or I use the list as a handy way to give extra chores to a child who’s needing an extra chore for their character development.
Some Reasons Why I Might Give an Extra Chore (ATTITUDE or ACTIONS when given a task):
*POOR ATTITUDE –A bad attitude is being displayed when I ask them to do something. A couple days ago I told my youngest, “Honey, I’m going to need to continue to give you extra dishes to wash until your attitude about washing dishes changes.” Boy, did that create a sudden turn-around in the little one’s disposition. Which I was able to follow, shortly with, “that is a great improvement in your attitude. You’ll enjoy your day a lot more with a good attitude and so will everyone around you. You’re finished! Go and enjoy your free time!”
*POOR ACTIONS – Maybe they didn’t complete a chore (such as vacuuming but then not putting the vacuum away) or they did a poor job of completing a job (such as refilling the soap dispenser but leaving a big mess of soap on the outside of the dispenser). But first, wait, Parent! Before you give them an added chore for their poor quality work, ask yourself, “Have I ever shown them what good quality work looks like on this task?” If you haven’t, then you need to go find them and show them how to do it right. Then watch them re-do it as well. Now you’ve done your part to train them to a quality standard. Do your part before you expect them to do their part.
7. The DIN DIN Club
There was a silly jingle we used to say as Mary Kay directors, “I’m a member of the DIN DIN Club, Do it now, Do it now, Do it now.” That might be silly to say, but there’s nothing silly about the huge amount of time you can gain just by developing this mindset with tasks.
Today I told my eight-year-old that I wanted her to put away her things from the kitchen table and then wash it (that’s kind of my thing – if you leave things out, I’m going to give you a job related to those things, which really helps everyone to better pick up after themselves at our house). Anyway, I asked her to do that and then I walked off to do some other things myself. When I returned to check on her progress (because I want my word to be valued, so I need to follow-up on how well she followed-through) she was standing in the same spot as when I left, waiting to ask me if she needed to wash the table with a soapy wash cloth or just brush the pencil eraser crumbs into the trash. Now, it is true that I could have and should have asked her if she had any questions before I left the room, but the truth is, she could have already been done washing it with soap and water by the time I came back into the room. What a time waster it was to stand around waiting to see if she could do the “easier” version of the job. Let’s be people who have a motto of “do it now” instead of a habit of procrastination that says, “how little can I do?” and “how long can I hold off doing it?” That lousy habit will keep your to-do list very long and you’ll accomplish so much less than just rolling up your sleeves and diving in to the work with all your might, right now. Do it now! Do it now!
7. “Keep it Real” for Real
Are you familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse (a gift that appeared to be very generous but actually contained a hidden danger that destroyed a gated and well-protected city)? Most homes in America today contain just as dangerous a “treasure” and we love it so much that most of us couldn’t imagine life without it. It’s our TV’s, internet, and game systems. My home is no different on this issue — we love our shows and our Google and our social media, but within lurks an ugly monster masquerading as innocent entertainment.
The filth, time-wasting factor, and addiction to the screen all seem to increase at an alarming rate in American homes. I find myself, as a parent who desperately cares for my children’s souls and minds, more and more concerned, saddened, and angry with the war that has been waged against our souls right in our own homes. In addition to the mental and moral harm that can come from an unbridled internet, it also seems to produce apathy about life in general. Americans today are easily bored and impatient with anything that’s not highly entertaining, but we’re also highly UN-motivated to advance and accomplish. As family interaction is at an all-time low in our society, sadly, many live daily enthralled in watching reality TV while not creating their own real-life MEANINGFUL reality. TV and social media are potentially big time-wasters and soul destroyers, so guard against these in yourself and be continually watching for signs of excess in your kids as well.
Last week, on the Glen Beck radio show he cited a study that said that teenagers average nine hours a day on social media. Nine hours! You want to talk about a time waster, boy that’s our biggest culprit!
(In our home we also have many safeguards regarding the filth that abounds online that, even innocently and unintentionally our children can stumble across. That is a blog post for another day. Currently I’m working on one called, “The Filtering MOM” so if you have filters, movie review cites, or media policies at your house that you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at val@PracticallySpeakingMOM.com)
9. Cut it out!
Do you feel like you spend half of your time trying to sort out and deal with all the little things that kids can accumulate! Sometimes I feel like my home is a giant puzzle board with all these little pieces to find their spot to put it all together, but more pieces keep appearing. (With four daughters total, I’ve had at least one little girl in my house constantly for the past 24 years and in those years I’m pretty sure that I’ve picked up a minimum of five hundred pony tails throughout our house in all kinds of odd places every.single.day.for.years). Ahhh, the stuff can make me crazy!
I’ve finally realized, after all this time, that if a girl only owned a few pony tails, she’d be more careful with them. Thus my eighth tip for you – get rid of all the excess. Cut out the excess to reduce the stress! Really, bundle it up and get it out! If you find that you’re spending a lot of time LOOKING for something at home, it either indicates that you need to improve your family’s HABIT of everything having a place and putting it there every time, OR you’ve simply got too much stuff!
What hoard have you started that needs to be eliminated to cut out the time it takes to deal with the stuff? For me, my hoarding is of homeschool curriculum. Oh how I love books, especially learning books! But my kids are mostly grown and I have too much. So I sorted and kept what I love that can’t be replaced easily and sold the rest on some Facebook groups I’m in. I made about $300 last weekend selling curriculum to people who picked it up off my front porch. Kudos to Facebook selling!
10. Plan, then Play! It’s the best way!
Let me just confess to you right now that I and my husband are pretty boring people. We have a hard time relaxing and having fun. We are much more task-oriented than people-oriented and that has been a real on-going problem throughout our years of parenting.
Gradually, we have learned the sacred value of play, laughter, fun, and memory making. Something God has been re-focusing with me, yet again, is the importance of these relationship moments. We’ve always been very future-minded and have been laser-focused on helping our children to be well-prepared for life. While we strive for making the future better, hustling hard each day for a bright future for our kids, we may be missing out on the best days of our lives. I don’t want to waste the best days. Yes, we need to plan, we need to do our work with excellence, and we need to have systems that we enforce with clear and confident consistency, but we also need to play! Celebrate! Make memories! These moments are quickly fleeting. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride in the fast lane!
So, here’s a list of a few ways I’ve learned to savor the scenic view while we’re running in the fast lane:
*Making homemade cards and homemade treats with my youngest two daughters
*Taking unexpected detours with the kids to the local gelato shop or Icee Hut to give the kids a cold treat
*Letting the kids pick out some flowers to plant in the garden and one for their bedroom too
*Leaving little notes on their bedroom door (just one more great use for sticky notes – one of my all time favorite things!)
*Listening to adventure books on CD when the family is in the car (our fav’s are Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Parks, Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, Lamplighter books).
*Playing more games as a family.
I’d love to hear what YOU do to enjoy the Scenic Route while you run in the Fast Lane! I’d love for you to comment below.
Want more helpful tips from me on getting laser-focused with intentional parenting? You might enjoy my ebook “Wearing All Your Hats without Wearing Out.”