Maintain a warm but structured environment. Have fun with your kids. I know if my kids ever read this chapter they will laugh. This is, perhaps, the area in which I am the greatest hypocrite of all. For the past few years I have been a single mother working full-time, raising kids and still finding time to keep a clean house (with a lot of help from my family). In my spare time, I've written two parenting books, founded Power Band Ministries (an evangelical outreach ministry), founded Collide (a ministry dedicated to the development and distribution of curriculum teaching that God and science are not mutually exclusive but instead compliment one another) and occasionally present parenting conferences around the nation. I am a self-professed, type-A, workaholic. I find watching movies and playing games to be tedious, not to mention guilt-ridden. That said, those two activities may be some of the most intrinsically valuable to the overall culture of my family on a daily basis. Taking the time to cook good meals, maintain eye contact during a conversations, tuck kids into bed and walk the dog are the nuts and bolts of good parenting. Perhaps they are not foundational and can even go undone and unnoticed for a period of time. But they seamlessly hold together a home and create an environment where relationships can thrive. Relationships are foundational. A good book to read for ideas is Family Fragrance: Practical Intentional Ways to Fill Your Home with the Aroma of Love by J. Otis and Gail Ledbetter from Heritage Builders. I should read this book more often than I do as it serves to be a constant reminder of the invaluable platform a calm, welcoming home gives to growth.
These are a few hints to accomplish, or at least begin this task, in simple and feasible ways.
1. Eat dinner together each night. Make this time count and create a fun environment for your family.
2. Let the consequence do the disciplining – not your emotional response (I know this is difficult but worth it.)
3. Stop what you're doing and make eye contact with kids when they're talking to you.
4. Try to smile, be playful, sing to music on the radio and joke with the kids (in a kind, non-personal way – never teasing or cruel)
5. Occasionally go out for ice cream or a movie.
6. Keep a puzzle setting out to “work on” in the winter.
7. Play a board game – especially if it's snowing outside.
8. Create new family traditions often.
9. Do your best to complete any work requiring focus prior to the kids waking up or after they go to sleep. This will reduce not only tempers but time spent on unproductive and frustrating daily tasks.
10. Take a break from assigning chores, laundry and daily work. We do this on Saturday. So all 5 chores per child must be completed by Friday at 6 pm, and we don't begin working again until Saturday night. On this day we do our best to not spend money or cause others to work. This may sound like a logistical mess but, truly, it is a relaxing way to end one week and begin the next. The kids have time to play outside with their friends or watch movies and I have time to unwind, call a friend or do a project. Our family does this to celebrate the Sabbath but it really is a wonderful way to transition between weeks.