It can be very frustrating. You need some semblance of order and accomplishment, you know your children also thrive when this is in place, but the chaotic tendencies of our kiddos just seem to thwart it at every turn.
You finally have fifteen minutes to work on something and, “Mom! Mom!” the drama begins. There are fights with siblings, “crazy” behavior with no point, or even just the yelling of your name to get you to look at them.
You do it, to your better judgment, you look, “What dear child of mine?” Blank stare. They just give you the blank stare.
They needed nothing except your attention.
And that’s when the anger starts. You know this is a legitimate issue for them, the insecurity, the needing of your time and attention, and yet life must be lived! Food must be made! Order must have its place!
These are all good things! These are things that would benefit your children if only they would cooperate!
You have two choices.
Fight it out. Not really, but…yes…this is the long-game approach and it means battling your own anger because there won’t be instant results. The choice? Teach. Teach them how to let you work on the dinner for 15 minutes without being interrupted.
I can already hear it.
“But how!? I’ve already tried everything!”
I’ll just let you know, you can make improvement in this area and it’s definitely worth pursuing, but it’s a long row to hoe. I’m working on a book that addresses this and a number of other issues, I’ll let you know when I’m ready to publish it, but for now, I really want to address choice number two.
Establish kid-free time in either the morning or the evening where you can be super efficiency woman! Please don’t look at this as one more thing to do. The hardest part about this is setting it up so that you are kid free, but once you are able to do that, this will save you so much time and stress. You’ll be able to do the cooking or ________ activity without hearing “MOM!!” and you’ll also be able to give your children the attention they want when you are with them.
So, let’s figure out how to set up some kid-free time in either the morning or evening. The concept behind this is very similar to my kid-free 4 hour time block I wrote about in My 4 Best Time Management Tips for Foster Parents. If you haven’t downloaded it you can do that here. I encourage you to pair both tips together. In that download I give you some great ideas on how to make that 4 hour time block happen, but if you haven’t made it work for you yet, then this tip might be a great replacement for that.
HOW TO ESTABLISH KID-FREE TIME IN THE MORNING OR EVENING
- Figure out how much time you need by yourself and then work backward from there.
I need two hours in the morning to myself. I determined this by paying attention to what I felt like I needed to do each morning.
I need about 30 minutes to wake up, get coffee, pee, you know the drill. Then, I need quiet time to write and my mornings are my best time for that. This usually takes an hour. Then, I need 30 more minutes to get myself ready for the day before I greet my children.
This means that, on a good day, I get up two hours before my kiddos (I’ll tell you how in another point). I use my time to write, but YOU get to use your time for whatever is going to free you up most throughout your day. If that’s packing lunches and putting dinner in the crock pot, do that!
- “Remember, a good routine will help simplify …rather than create new anxiety about perfectionism.” – Crystal Paine Make Over Your Mornings
This quote right here is why I love Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings course so much and why I recommend it to foster parents. This kid-free time you’re setting aside for yourself in the mornings or evenings is going to make the biggest difference in your day when you use it to simplify, or free you up the rest of the day.
So determine what that ONE thing is you want to accomplish without the kiddos (i.e. cooking). Figure out how much time that takes. Then determine when you need to get up, or go to bed, to make that happen.
- Get up before they go to bed or stay up after they do. Whatever works best for YOU, but don’t do both.
Why? Because you need to sleep. You can’t burn the midnight oil AND be part of the 4am club. You will kill yourself. Sleep is highly important. I’m not going to source this stuff because (well, I don’t have time to find it) but do your own research. Look at how sleep effects cortisol levels (that’s scientific speak for stress), cognitive functioning, weight gain, immunity, and a host of other issues.
- “Okay, that’s great Sarah, but HOW?”
Bunny clocks, baby monitors, and the Time Timer.
- We have a “bunny clock” that tells our children when it is time to sleep and when it is time to get up. They don’t get out of bed until that clock “wakes up” or the alarm goes off. I LOVE this system. It works for ALL ages. The youngest child can see when the bunny is “sleeping” or “awake” and the oldest child can look at the actual clock and hear the alarm. The alarm is optional and we keep it off for our little ones so it doesn’t scare them. This works if you are trying to establish your kid-free time in the evening or the morning. In the evening, it helps because there is a visual reminder to your kids that it is bed time. If that bunny is asleep they need to lay in bed quietly. The same concept is wonderful for the morning. You can start teaching this at about 18 months but they won’t actually “get it” till at least age two and sometimes age three. That is where the baby monitor comes in.
- You need one through which you can talk to your kids. I prefer the video kind (this is the one we use) but even if you don’t have the video kind, as long as you can talk to your kids via the monitor this will work. You teach. When they start making noise in the morning, you remind them “shhh, its sleeping time, be quiet.” Now, you’ll have to experiment. You can’t correct each noise or it becomes a reinforcement. They talk or make noise just to get you to talk to them. So, be judicious. Kids are going to make noise if they are awake. My goal is that they don’t talk or make noises that will keep others awake. Rewards and natural consequences are great too, but you still need to be able to talk to them and send occasional reminders or their insecurity sets in and they get “crazy”. The fact that they know you can see them and are aware of them provides a level of security that enables them to stay in bed when they are supposed to be resting.
- Lastly, the Time Timer. This is for those of you who want quiet time at night but it’s not time for lights out yet. It is a powerful visual that works for all ages and abilities. It is quiet because it is manual, you don’t have to plug it, it only uses one battery, and you can set it for as little as 5 minutes to as long as an hour. You can set the timer up in your kids’ room and give them a quiet activity. Since our kids struggle with this type of independence, I suggest having your kiddos do these activities in their own beds. This provides a clear and individual boundary that gives security and helps them be successful. However, you do what works for you. Some quiet activity suggestions are audio books, MagnaDoodle, and quiet toys.
- To simplify, A Bunny Clock to tell them when to lay quietly and when to wake up. Crystal’s Make Over Your Mornings or Make Over Your Evenings Course to give you 5 minutes a day of very practical ways to make the most of these quiet times you’ve just instituted for yourself and your kiddos. A Baby Monitor to talk to them and remind them that it’s quiet time. And, a Time Timer for quiet time when they don’t need to be sleeping. Then, when your children are up for the day, you’ll be able to give them much more time and undivided attention. It’s a win-win for you both.
You Can do this! :0) Sarah
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