***A small disclaimer before you read this post. We are by no means parenting experts and any opinions expressed here are strictly those of the person who gave them (aka me, Judi). Anything I say does not intend to pass judgment on other parents, what works for our family may not work for yours. There’s a great big world out there and room for all sorts of styles of parenting.
How DO you do it?
We hear this question A LOT. People’s eyes bug out of their heads when we tell them we have 7 children. I thought that I would write a little post about our parenting style and what works for us as a family. As a little reminder, here are the kids we are dealing with
- Evan ~ age 19, currently lives with his Grandma and attends university
- Austan ~ age 11, grade 6
- Allen ~ age 11, grade 6
- Andrew ~ age 7, grade 2 (Andrew will be 8 in a month)
- Aaron ~ age 6, grade 1
- Charlotte ~ age 4, Jr. Kindergarten (aka Charley)
- Meredith ~ age 2, still at home all day (aka Meri, who will be 3 next month)
1. We are your parents, not your friends
Ok, yes, we want our kids to like us and feel like they can tell us anything and come to us whenever they need us. However, our foremost responsibility is to parent them. That means feeding, clothing, housing, disciplining, directing, teaching, and loving them. This means helping them become productive members of society and make sure that they don’t become serial killers or something like that. You can’t always be best buddies with your kid. You can have buddy moments of course…raising kids should be fun too!!
2. The number one relationship in the family is the Spousal Relationship
Do you mean that you should put your relationship with your spouse over the relationship with your kids? Yep, I do, most definitely. The husband/wife relationship needs to be nurtured and kept healthy and happy. I don’t feel you can effectively parent your children if you and partner do not have a healthy relationship. It is one of the reasons I finally left my husband…because our differences were so great and irreconcilable, I felt I was losing control of the way I wanted to raise my children and harming them mentally and emotionally. Showing a healthy, loving relationship with your spouse/partner will go a long way in making your children feel safe, confident, and loved. There are 3 parents in our household, me, Amy, and Shane. We aren’t all married, of course, but we are partners in this parenting thing. We take this partnership very seriously and make sure that we are a cohesive unit. So far, I think we’re doing a pretty good job.
This is a big one and probably the hardest thing we have to do. We use a lot of time outs and try to discipline our kids with logical consequences. Like the other day when they were treating their toys like crap…we threw them into garbage bags and took them away. We are very “supernanny” with our time outs. They have to sit on the stairs for a set amount of time (it’s usually their age). When they have been there a certain amount of time, we go and talk to them and make them tell us why they are there and discuss ways we can do things differently next time. You have to be strong and firm and keep putting them back into those time outs until they do sit there. It’s tiring and frustrating and you want to give in, but we’ve found if we stick to our guns they finally realize we mean business.
4. Follow Through
I admit, this is the hardest thing for me to do. I am sure many of my friends with children threatening to do stuff a lot but never follow through on it. I used to give up all the time and I have just recently started to get better at it. Kids have to know that you “say what you mean and mean what you say”. If you never follow through, they will continue to walk all over you…they are sneaky little buggers that way, lol. Amy and Shane have helped me a lot with this.
All our kids, from Meri to Evan (when he’s here) have jobs to do around the house. The bigger kids have more difficult tasks than the littles, and as the littles grow they will be given more responsibilities. We believe that chores around the house are just part and parcel of being part of a family. So the normal everyday chores such as making beds, cleaning rooms, taking out the garbage and recycling, loading the dishwasher, and doing the dishes are all chores that the kids do. Sometimes we’ll have the big boys clean a bathroom, or vacuum. Apparently we’re the meanest parents in the world because “none of our other friends have to do chores”! Ha ha ha, sure they don’t (well maybe some don’t, but we’re not your friends parents, we’re yours). We get complaints sometimes such as “I don’t understand why “I” have to do all this work around here”. That usually gets a “awww really? I don’t understand why I have to feed you and buy you clothes and give you a place to live, and do your laundry”. That usually stops the grumbling for a while.
6. Early to Bed
Andrew, Aaron, Charley, and Meri go to bed at 7:30pm. Aaron and Andrew read until 8pm. The big boys go to bed at 8 and read until 9pm. Kids need sleep and I think sometimes us adults don’t realize that they need more sleep than we do. Heck, some adults don’t realize that they themselves need more sleep! We try to make sure they all get at least 10 hours of sleep a night. I do realize that getting kids to bed early is really, really, hard. Especially when you have 2 working parents and you all don’t even get through the door of your house until 6pm. Then you have to make dinner, do homework, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes there are extra-curriculars. We are a unique family in that we have 3 parents…2 work outside the home full time, 1 is full-time stay at home. We are lucky that we’re able to get the kids to bed early.
7. We are not short order cooks
We just don’t allow our kids to be picky eaters. What gets put in front of them is what they get to eat and if they don’t eat it, well then that is just tough, I am not making something else for you. It’s the way I grew up, it’s the way Amy and Shane both grew up. It did, however, take us a long time to get to this point. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about how we stopped the picky eating and you can read about it if you’d like. Our strategies worked for us, and we now have kids that will eat almost everything. We do take into account some of the food aversions that a few of our kids have, like Andrew who doesn’t like mushy things like mashed potatoes (we give him a tablespoonful and he has to eat that), or yogurt with fruit in it (we don’t make him eat it). But for the most part, they are starting to have more of a refined palette. For instance this Christmas the kids were eating shrimp, liver pâté and crackers, and all kinds of wonderful, yummy foods.
Now, this may not work for everyone…a lot of people have kids with food allergies, food aversions, with sensory processing disorders, etc. You have to do what works for your family and I am not advocating that you force the kids to eat stuff they absolutely hate.
8. Know their limits
We know what our kids can and cannot handle. For instance, we know they need their sleep, so you will rarely see us out with them past 9pm at night. We know that if they are tired, they will begin to make a scene, so we avoid making that scene. We have 2 kids with special needs. Andrew is autistic, and Allen has Asperger’s Syndrome. Sometimes outings are harder for them than they are for other kids. We will make a decision not to do something on a certain day because Andrew just won’t be able to handle it. If we know that we’re going to have a day that is exceptionally different from his usual routine, we will make sure we schedule a low-key day for the next. We know that Andrew will be completely out of sorts and will have a ton of meltdowns the next day because we threw him off his schedule.
9. Keep them busy, but not too busy
We make sure the kids have enough activities to keep them busy, but not too many that they are overscheduled. Just like we need down time, we have to realize that our kids need downtime too. Each child (except Meri, but that will change when she turns 3, and Evan, but he’s busy at school) currently has 2 activities that they do. Everyone has swimming lessons once a week (our opinion, if you can only do one, swimming lessons are the way to go…exercise and a skill that everyone should learn). The 4 boys are currently in Scouting. Charley has dance once a week. With school and homework, chores and fun, 2 is all we feel we can handle and that our kids can handle. Meri starts swimming in February when she turns 3, and will probably start dance in the fall.
Ok, I have bored you enough, I am sure. Again, these are OUR philosophies and should never be taken as parenting advice. Every family is different, every child is different. This is how we do it. So far I think we’re doing a fairly good job, with a few bumps and blips along the way. The kids aren’t perfect, but they are generally good kids and I think they are mostly fun to be around. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes and will probably make more, I am sure.
If any of my readers with kids have a blog, I would love to hear about your parenting style/philosophy and how it works for your family.
I will be back later tonight with a day 6 update!