As we walked in the door from swim team practice this afternoon, 5 year-old Christopher went straight to the bathroom, hung up his bathing suit, and hopped into the bathtub, just as I had asked him to. He was very helpful in the tub, washing himself off with soap and even helping to get the shampoo out of his little sister's hair. After bath time, Christopher dried himself off and went into his bedroom, and without even asking he put on his pajamas and cleaned up the toys that had been strewn across his room. Ready for dinner, Christopher walked into the kitchen and sat down at his seat, patiently waiting for me to finish getting Maria dried off and dressed before I set dinner on the table. Everything went perfectly smoothly, and we ate a pleasant meal together.
Well okay, that's not exactly what happened...In fact, it's not at all how things happened :) It took some prodding to get Christopher to come to the bath, get himself dressed after bath time, and clean up his toys. He was starving and by the time I got to the kitchen he had snagged a granola bar from the pantry. Some nights this routine takes longer than others, and sometimes I am more capable of remaining calm and organized through it all than others!
On our better days, these are some techniques that help to keep things peaceful and orderly:
1) Counting to 5: When I've asked Christopher to do something and he has not done it the first time, I give him a "Count of 5" to do what I've asked him, otherwise he gets a consequence. For example, if I've asked Christopher to come to the bath and he's playing with legos in his room, I say "I'm going to count to 5 and I expect you to come to the bath...1, 2, 3, 4, 5". If he does not come by 5, I take away one of his bedtime stories, then count to 5 again, take away another story, dessert, etc. You get the idea. The count of 5 gives Christopher enough time to respond, and it gives me 5 seconds to cool off when I'm frustrated!
2) Resisting the urge to raise my voice (aka scream): Nothing good comes out of screaming, really. The only time that I think it's the most effective tool is when one of my children is putting themselves or someone else in danger, like when they're about to walk into the street without looking. Otherwise, it just gives everyone a headache!
3) Having a plan set in place: The nights when I plan ahead (dinner is mostly ready, rooms have already been cleaned, etc.), everyone is less frazzled. When the kids know what to expect, they are more likely to behave well.
What are your survival strategies for keeping an even keel?