Going back to school means early mornings, homework, extracurriculars and changes in schedules for the whole family. Simplify the change this year with these expert tips for some of your biggest parenting gripes: Morning mayhem, homework woes, chore aversion and whining.
Make sure they’re getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids need 10-11 hours of sleep and teens 8.5-9.5 hours but most don’t get this much sleep each night. If your kids are groggy in the morning, try getting them to bed a little earlier each night.
Establish a schedule for all evening activities. Getting the kids to bed on time and without a symphony of complaints is much easier when you have a set time for dinner and limits for computer and video game time. Being inflexible on evening routines will make is possible to be a little more flexible on the morning routine.
Do what you can the night before. Pack lunches, set out clothes and check everyone’s homework/backpacks before they head to bed each night. Whatever you can do at night, won’t need doing in the morning.
Don’t over-schedule. Extracurricular can be a lot of fun but a back to back schedule from after school until evening can build up a lot of energy and excitement, and make it more difficult for children to fall asleep fast and sleep as soundly as they need.
Don’t sleep in on weekends. It takes time to get back into an early-rise schedule but only a few days to lose progress. You could undo a lot of that effort by letting the kids sleep too late on the weekends.
Set regular break/study times. Resolve to have regular homework and study times every day. Many kids will work better after having a snack and short wind-down period after school, while others work better after dinner.
Establish a homework area. Decide on a dedicated location for doing homework with good lighting and as few distractions as possible. Keep a stash of any supplies they may need close at hand to eliminate breaks and interruptions
Make a plan together. A larger homework load may intimidate and frustrate some children. Work together to identify which assignments are due and make a plan for breaking the work into smaller, more manageable chunks if necessary. 15-minute breaks every hour or so may also help reduce headaches for both parent and child.
Keep distractions to a minimum – and this means you too. When possible, lower music, turn off the television and put your own phone on vibrate or silent and encourage your children to do the same. If you’re not needed for help, use this time to balance your budget or read a new book while the kids are hard at work. You’ll enjoy the peace and they’ll remember your good example for years to come.
Give encouragement and praise. Even if assignments aren’t 100% correct, find ways to praise the work they’ve done and acknowledge strengths before correcting mistakes.
Talk to the teacher. If the tips above haven’t helped reduce tantrums and complaints, there may be other issues that need addressing. Your child may be having trouble seeing the board, experiencing distractions in the classroom or possibly have a learning disability (1 in 5 do).
Make chores a regular, group activity. Set aside a time each day or each week when the whole family to do chores simultaneously. Knowing what to expect and knowing that everyone is doing chores and not just one or two members of the family can greatly reduce resistance and complaints.
Assign chores by age & ability. Choose tasks each child can do well according to age and ability. No one likes doing work they aren’t good at. Let each child do things they can excel at and receive praise for later.
Add variety. Use a system of rotation or use a game like dice or cards to select and assign chores each week. This keeps things light and will help make things “fair” (the dreaded “F” word) for everyone when there’s a specific task one child really doesn’t want to do.
Post a chart or list. Even a small list of chores can seem daunting to children but posting a list or chart somewhere everyone can see can help make that list seem more manageable. And, how great does it feel to physically “check” things off your list?
Perfection not required. Your kids may not always do things 100% the way you would like but that’s OK. They’re learning life lessons and even though the socks may not be folded and bundled exactly the way you like, they’re put away and no longer on YOUR list of things to do!
Whining & Tantrums
Acknowledge right away, but respond in your own time. The primary purpose for whining is to gain a parent’s attention, typically after trying once and feeling like they’ve been ignored. Try to respond to their first bid for attention whenever possible, even if its just to make eye contact and a hand motion to let them know you’ve heard them and will address their need when you’re off the phone, for example.
Respond with “I” statements. Children, more than anything else simply want our attention and approval. Instead of simply asking the child to stop whining, try making things more personal by saying something like “It makes mommy really sad when you whine”. And give examples of the proper way to get what they are asking for at that moment.
Spend more time. If your kids seem to be whining more than usual, take a moment to assess the amount of one-on-one time you’ve had with them recently. Have you been working a lot or been busy planning church/school/family activities? Even just a few minutes of one-on-one attention once or twice a day can make a huge difference in your child’s behavior.
Remember the 4 R’s – Relax, Relate, Rephrase, Reward. Your response to your child’s whining will dictate how often the behavior is repeated. Remember these tips: be calm, let the child know you understand his needs, instruct him in better ways to communicate and be sure to reward the child with praise when he/she uses manners to ask the next time.
When all else fails, there’s always bribery – but be smart about it. Set goals that span days or weeks and decide together on rewards that are attainable and enjoyable for the whole family like a special activity at the end of each week. You may even find the kids reminding each other of the rules to ensure they all get their reward at the end of the week!