Monday, May 12, 2014

How Do You Run Errands With a Big Family? Medicated. Just Kidding. Kind of.

Hi, Friends!

You guys have asked me some good questions, so I thought I'd try to tackle one finally.

Brace yourself, I'm going to boss you around now.  :)

No, seriously.

(And also, there are just totally random kid pictures in this post.  You're welcome).

How do you go to the *doctor, grocery, pool, church, etc* with all five kids?

Well really, the answer varies a little bit by location, but some things carry true throughout.  First, we deliberately have trained our children to behave in certain ways that make taking them out in public possible for one adult.  The biggest thing underpinning all our activities is probably obedience.  I know people my age tend to shy away from that kind of parenting, sometimes with good reason, but for safety's and sanity's sake, the bottom line in my house is that someone has to be in charge, and that person has to be me (or my husband).  With so many kids under a certain age, there is no room for a kid to decide to do whatever they feel like.  It's just plain dangerous.  Obedience in our house means an immediate, complete, and cheerful response.  I know this sounds incredibly strict, and it is, but it's actually not difficult or harsh.  We don't beat them or anything.  :)  We have just always consistently trained them that they must do what I ask of them, and for the most part, they do.  Please understand, I am well aware that my children are a work in progress, and if you know us in real life, you absolutely will see them mess up.  But they know the standard of behavior required, and we generally don't have too many long-term issues on that front.  (For example, I don't have to be physically touching my kids to make them stay with me in a parking lot, crowded store, etc).  If anyone is interested, I can go into the "how" of making this happen some other time.

Second, as I just mentioned, we are really clear with the kids about the standard of behavior required in different situations.  We train them at home by rehearsing different scenarios, and asking them what they should do.  Try role-playing with the kids about "if this, then what?"  I also always go over the rules of a situation in the car on the way there.  Every.single.time.  (My oldest is sick to death of hearing all that, but it helps remind the younger kids what to do).  

I had no clue that training was essential to successful parenting when my oldest was a toddler.  I had never seen anyone parent that way.  I thought good behavior would just happen, and I was frustrated when it didn't.  (Hint: it didn't).  Being intentional about training for our expectations makes all the difference here.  Of course, being intentional also means that you will have to sit down and figure out exactly what your goals are, and exactly what good behavior means in your family.  Every family's priorities are different.  So, for example, in the grocery store, my kids know to stay by my cart, not touch anything on the shelves that we are not going to purchase, and how to use an indoor voice.

Third, be prepared.  I never, ever take the kids anywhere at naptime or when they need to eat.  Never.  Except very special occasions, if it happens during naps, we won't be there.  Why?  Because you are setting the kids up to fail.  You cannot expect good behavior out a child who needs some rest time or a meal.  Unless they are a newborn, they cannot just nap in the grocery cart or the car.  Or rather, they can, but you will be punished for it later.  ALWAYS.

Lastly, prepare yourself.  If you are pushed to your limit for the day already, skip the trip to the store and feed them pb&j.  They will survive!  Even with well-behaved children, many of these outings can still be stressful.  The doctor's office, in particular, can be brutal with a bunch of littles.  I try not to do it with all of them.  (Oh yeah, did I forget that?  If you need help, get help!)  Don't expect it to be easy, and then you won't be resentful when it isn't.  I pretty much still end every trip to the grocery store sweaty and exhausted (this is doubly true if you are pregnant or have a nursing newborn).  Make sure you are mentally prepared.  I try to use what I call my "Mrs. Duggar" voice when I am overwhelmed by an errand.  The more stressed I am, the sweeter and quieter I get.  Why?  Because the kids respond really well to it, and because speaking calmly helps me *feel* calm.  Plus, no one likes to see other parents hollering at little kids.  :)  Also don't forget to make sure YOU are fed and hydrated too.  Always bring a water bottle with you.  You will need it.

And keep emergency lollipops hidden in your bag, but don't give them out so often that the kids expect it.   :)

These things alone make a huge difference in our everyday lives.  The training part can be tiring, but if you are consistent, it will make the rest of life so much easier (well, as easy as going anywhere with a raft of kids is going to be).  When we start to get lazy at my house, we see some backsliding in behavior, and it can be a train-wreck.  It is SO much better to force myself to be consistent than to deal with the consequences.

There are plenty of more experienced mamas out there to get encouragement from, and I would love to hear from you guys in the comments!  This is just what works for me.  You know what works best for your family, as always.

And if you took them all to the pool alone today, go pour yourself a drink.  You earned it.

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