Talk to your children first. Make a Family Meeting, without disturbances, after supper, after bathtime, when hopefully everyone is in a good mood. Take a big piece of paper and a thick red and blue felt pen. Make two lists: Do’s & Don’ts (Do’s in blue and Dont’s in red) with a line down the middle.
Tell your children that to have a happy household you need to make a plan and together are going to make a list of things that need to happen and things that you don’t want to happen. Your children (those old enough to participate) should give their ideas of what they think should be on each list. One might say, “no fighting.” Another might say, “no morning rush.” “no arguments.” You might say, “ no clothes left on floor.” “no toys left on floor.” “ Children should help clear the table.” Together agree on a short list of do’s and don’t’s.
Then, you need to talk to the children about HOW you are going to do each task. ( E.g. “no morning rush might need the clothes to be chosen the night before, or cereals and bowls and plates to be on the table the night before.) Discuss each thing on the list and decide together how you will achieve it. “No clothes on the floor” might mean you will buy a new big washing basket for the children to throw their clothes into. “Clearing the table” might mean that the younger children take 2 things off the table and the older ones taking 5 things off the table etc. Work it all out WITH the children and re-write the list with the instructions and put it up on the wall.
Give yourselves a start date and a daily chart so you can keep track of your progress. Tell them that if a whole week goes by and all the things are kept to, you will reward them (could be money put aside to save up for a treat or anything else you think is suitable.
Don’t talk about punishments. No one will be punished if the list isn’t kept to. Success breeds success and the possibility of a reward if they stick to the plan will keep the momentum up.
Have a weekly Family Meeting to talk about your successes and failures. Let the children be part of the programme. You can change or expand on THE LIST each week as it suits you.
This works well for some families and less well with others, but there is no family that cannot improve provided the children are clear about what is expected of them and what will happen if they keep the ‘rules.’ Make sure you are consistent and work with the list.
One family, who were always late, had a list of jobs and times which worked well for them. They bought a big giant size clock and worked to keep their listed times, 7.30 get up, dress, clean teeth. 8am breakfast. 8.30 leave for school. It worked well for them but your family might need a completely different list.
Just remember that telling your children to keep tidy, not to fight, to help clear the table, to go to bed on time without making a list, will not work. A list on the wall has more authority than complaints and are a more effective way of getting your children to follow the rules. You can make a new set of rules for different occasions for example before a holiday or a visit to Grandma. Always do this at a Family meeting so the children are part of the plan. It’s certainly worth a try.