In more than 30 years of private practice, I have counseled countless parents, both single and married. I have visited home after home in an effort to help stressed families function better. And I have found that the biggest reason parents run out of quality family time is that they actually do too much for their children.
So many of today’s parents are overprotective or overinvolved. They act like “helicopter parents,” hovering over their children, doing things for them that the kids are perfectly capable of doing themselves.
Well, it’s time to bring that helicopter down for a landing, learn how to relieve family stress and create more time to enjoy your life. I hope these 10 timesaving tips help parents achieve those goals.
1. Hold Weekly Family Meetings
Meetings can be helpful in winning the cooperation of family members, because everyone has a say in the running of the family. At these meetings parents and their children can plan family fun, choose meals for the next week, complete chores and resolve grievances. Snacks and a game after the meeting will help the children feel especially motivated to participate.
2. End Homework Hassles
There is an old rule called “Grandma’s Rule,” which calls for work before play. In other words, fun is to come after homework is completed. Parents should establish a generous deadline for completing homework for each child, according to age. When the timer goes off, homework time is over for that particular child. This helps eliminate parental hassles, nagging and dawdling. The next day, the child either receives praise from her teacher for completing the work or punishment for incomplete or poorly done work.
3. Stop Sibling Rivalry
The constant bickering between siblings can cause so much work for parents as they try to unravel who started what. Instead, parents should make it their children’s responsibility to get along. Inform them that it is their job to get along with each other. When they start fighting, parents should give them a warning to work things out. If they don’t work things out, they will all go to their rooms for 20 minutes. If they think that’s unfair, too bad. After 20 minutes, ask them if they are ready to get along. If they are, they can leave time-out. Parents can repeat this procedure several times in one day, if necessary. Eventually it will work: the children will learn to stop the incessant bickering.
4. Don’t Cater to the Fussy Eater
Parents can plan favorite meals for the fussy eater a couple times a week. For the other meals simply inform your child that he can pick and choose what he prefers to eat. Set the timer for when dinner will be over. In some families this will be 15 minutes; in others it will be 20 minutes or later. Once the bell goes off, dinner is over and the dishes are picked up. Using this helpful approach, parents give the fussy eater plenty of time to eat but rob him of the opportunity to make everyone miserable by wasting time at the dinner table. Most likely he will be hungry later, but that’s not the time for parents to start pouring cereal or preparing grilled cheese sandwiches. The kitchen is closed and will reopen for breakfast in the morning.
5. Create a Soothing Bedtime Ritual The purpose of such a ritual is to help make bedtime as pleasant as possible by putting the children in a quiet, relaxed mood. Baths, water play in the tub, snacks, bedtime stories and tucking in can take place in a regular and consistent fashion. When parents get the children into bed in a timely fashion, it leaves them time for themselves.
6. Don’t Allow Your Kids to Dawdle It seems almost every family has one child who refuses to take responsibility for getting out of bed, dressing, eating breakfast and getting to the bus on time. The dawdler can ruin a parent’s morning and make her late for work. These children need to be told that once their alarm clock goes off, a parent will come in once to make sure they are up. Their clothes should have been picked out the night before, with their book bag by the door. All they have to do is wash, dress and come to the breakfast table in time to catch the bus. These children may not reform their habits overnight, but if parents are consistent, things improve with time.
7. Rely on Friends for Help
Sitters are often hard to find, but parents can agree to help each other out by watching each other’s children. In this way there is no extra cost and you both end up with free time to recharge yourself. A rested parent with private adult time functions so much more efficiently than a parent who is always burned-out.
8. Don’t Come Home Angry
Too many working parents return home with a big to-do list in their heads. Rushed and frantic, they walk through the door issuing orders and distributing criticism for what has not been done. Children, in turn, respond to their parents with opposition and stubbornness. Not only is time wasted—the evening becomes emotionally exhausting. Children miss their parents who have been working all day. Parents, of course, miss their children. So the first priority when you arrive home from work should be to enjoy some down-time—to put aside work concerns so you can relax, chat and have fun. When parents take this approach, children are far more helpful, and the family has time to be together.
9. Use Sunday Night as Pick-Up Time
On Sunday evening, everyone is responsible for helping pick up their stuff and putting it away, including the parents. It soon becomes routine for the family to work together to straighten up the house for the coming week. A family game, ice cream, a video or some other fun family experience can follow.
10. Avoid Overscheduling Yourself or Your Children
Many of today’s parents and children are overscheduled. Parents need to learn to say no to outside responsibilities and to scheduling more than two extracurricular activities for their kids. Living a hectic, frantic life is no fun for parents or children. Prioritizing helps you find more time to enjoy your life.
As a parent, remember that your goal is to raise responsible children, helping them to someday live independent lives. Being a super parent, running after your children, only inspires them to depend on you to do things they are capable of doing themselves. These 10 strategies will help you find the extra time you need and deserve.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.