Tricks of the trade

When raising children, we need to learn how to mold their behavior in a way that is desirable and socially acceptable. This is no easy task. Wanting to be your child’s friend seems more appealing than being the one to set limits and enforce consequences. But kids want to be given guidelines and to know what to expect. A child without boundaries cannot develop self control, and lives in a world of chaos. This is not a pleasant place to be.
Daily routine is critical, as are consistency in expectations, and consequences to undesirable behavior, Make your expectations perfectly clear and follow through with consequences even if it would be easier to let things slide. Raising “good” kids is hard work. 
Make sure your child’s day involves fresh air and plenty of exercise.  A long walk or trip to the playground, weather permitting; or dancing, pretending to be every kind of animal you can think of, running up and down the stairs, will serve you well. There are numerous videos leading children in various forms of exercise.  This will bode well for nap time too!
Give up the expectation of keeping an immaculate house, although teaching children to pick up toys as they are finished with them and before getting something else out is win-win for everyone: more room to play and easier clean-up at the end of the day.
It is not necessary or desirable to keep children occupied every minute, because then they don’t learn to entertain themselves.

There are certain things that work really well in changing the level and type of energy in the house. Getting everyone to take three deep breaths rarely fails. Calming music helps keep the level of craziness down. We used to have an aquarium that served as time out. Putting the kids (and/or myself!) in front of the fish tank worked like magic in calming all of us down; and you can have great conversations while watching the fish!

Read to your kids every day. Not only will you teach your children a love of reading, it is a way to take a break from the madness.
Rotate the toys. If you keep some of the toys in the attic and bring them down while putting others away for a time, it’s like getting a whole bunch of new things to play with. Even when the kids are developmentally beyond certain toys, they are certain to find other uses for them. When a command to pick up their toys elicits minimal response from little ones, singing the Clean-up Song often helps to move things along. (I often think it is their way of getting me to stop singing).
Most useful in getting a child to do what needs to be done is to make a game of it. Challenging the kids to do what is required before you count to 20 is a most effective ploy for getting them to comply. I used to count all the time when my kids were little: “See if you can go to the bathroom before I count to 25; go get your shoes before I count to 10… It almost always works.
Note: Many years later, I asked my 19 year old son to go bring something up from downstairs. Upon his refusal, I said “see if you can do it before I count to 10.” First he rolled his eyes and said “no!” “1…2…3….4.. you better hurry!” He started to get antsy as this look of confusion came over his face before he took off, returning just as I got to 10! It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Always remember, as tough as things get, they always always get better, and your head will spin at how quickly the time goes by.

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