How to Stop the Kids Winning
Winning not whining, in case you misread the title. Kids win a lot. Too much in fact. I glibly thought prior to birthing our many offspring, ‘If I ever have kids, I would NEVER let them do THAT!’ But that was before I knew that children are born with an innate and inexhaustible capacity to wear us down.
They rarely give up when it comes to getting what they want. Therefore as parents, we give in, just the once. But then the next time arrives real soon… The legal term is PRECEDENT. Once it exists, you are screwed and the kids are winning.
The start of a new year always brings some reflection invariably, on things that are going well and the areas that
we are losing in need work. So I thought I would share some tried and tested family life hacks in the Chaos Household to perhaps help you notch up some more wins and teach the kids that losing is character-building.
Family life hacks
Some of our family life hacks or Parent Wins as I like to call them, won’t always work. Some days, parenting is merely stemming the onslaught of laundry, mess and attitude. Some days you have to wait until tomorrow.
But some days they work and you get to notch up a parent win!
For the record, these parent wins aren’t just gratuitously mean, they do have a purpose. They actually add value or at the very least cut back on some of the mutiny…
1) Nap-time or quiet-time in the afternoon. Always. You are never too old.
‘You know you are an adult when a nap is a reward not a punishment.’
We all know that nap time is sacred for parents, either because you get to nap too or get some precious uninterrupted time, aka unicorn time. Which is why when young children stop needing their nap … cue actual parental sobbing.
The answer: While you live in my house, nap-time is NEVER OVER!
Our solution is to rebrand nap-time to quiet-time. Yes. Everyone needs some quiet time by themselves. Mostly parents. But it is good for kids too. I was introduced to quiet-time from my own childhood. It became mostly just a Saturday/ Sunday afternoon thing when I was a teenager. I used to think it was so my parents could have ‘quality’ time, but now I realize that they were likely just napping.
Our quiet-time for our children currently consists of ‘staying in your room and entertaining yourself’. More specifically, Do Not Bug Me. Under any circumstances.
Actually, we have had to talk about circumstances that do warrant being bugged, i.e. a fire or a spider the size of your face. But other than the two exceptions: stay in your room, read, color, do whatever you want – as long as I can’t hear you. And you may come out when the big hand on the clock points to three.
Aside from the very important ‘me-time’ for adults, there are some really positive benefits for kids. When kids are alone, they can be really creative – over the years we have seen an impressive array of buildings, creations and artwork appear after quiet-time. They also get to recalibrate, have some downtime and most importantly learn that you are not their unpaid entertainment. That’s what winning looks like!
Be warned that some dark stuff may also happen if your kids are left unsupervised for any length of time. So be smart – don’t leave them alone with toothpaste or liquid paint. It has been the price that we ourselves paid for adult nap-time. Totally worth it though.
2) Sweetie day is on Saturday. Yep only on Saturday.
Kids get hold of candy, no matter how hard you try and restrict it. I blame grandparents, godparents, Halloween and pinatas. And so to address the deluge of candy, we now have an established rule: No candy except on Saturday! (We call them sweets this side of the pond, hence Sweetie Saturday, the alliteration just works better.)
Anyway, despite what you choose to call it, it is a day when they can eat ‘some’ candy. As the parent, you can decide on whatever portion you are comfortable with and then let them eat it. Make sure you haven’t timetabled it just before ‘naptime’ and then brush their teeth afterward. Done.
The benefits are that it cuts down any mid-week whinging about eating candy whenever they should chance upon it, which we all know is really often. It helps prevent random sugar rushes and protects those darned little pearly whites.
How do you manage/maintain eating sweets on one day of the week? Always easier said than done… my kids are fairly well trained in that when they are gifted some candy, they know they have to hand it over. Sometimes we allow them one piece (to prevent a scene) and then they give us the rest. Parenting has far too much compromise for my liking. But we are usually able to stash the majority in an inaccessible cupboard (we are not stupid.)
That candy cupboard will gradually fill with more candy than your average convenience store. An added benefit or should I say the primary benefit is that the kids actually forget about it and therefore you are obliged to re-gift it (other parents will ‘gratefully’ thank you) or eat it yourself.
I thought you might be interested in the depths that I am willing to stoop to in this regard: I recovered a half dozen chocolate bars from our kids (each) that they acquired in the run-up to Christmas. Then ‘Santa’ regifted them (Bahahahahahaha) and then I re-recovered them once more for the candy cupboard. Since then I think Mr Chaos (not me obviously) has already eaten half of them in the last week. Our kids don’t have a clue. Win again.
3) Bribery for eating what’s on your plate
Yep barefaced bribery. I am not going to even try and hide it. Whilst I am sure there are benefits and disadvantages to this particular parenting philosophy, this is the path we have chosen for our family mealtimes. It mirrors our childhood experience and we grew up to love family meals, enjoy a wide range of tastes, have a fairly healthy relationship with food – so I feel that I have enough empirical evidence to build on!
Two of our kids love shrimp with a passion so fierce that they will steal them off your plate. Our other two will gag if asked to eat them. Chewy would be delighted if he could eat a bowl of plain pasta for EVERY meal. Leia would happily be a vegetarian, but Yoda, my little carnivore, literally sobbed when I suggested we try Veganuary. My point here being that despite our kids having a similar diet since they were born, they have individual and strong preferences.
But this mama doesn’t have time for any personal catering, so you eat what you get – if you want dessert in the Chaos household. Positive coercion is how I like to think of it. If you don’t motivate the average child somehow, then vegetable eating generally ain’t happening. So our modus operandi is as follows:
- Try one bite of everything.
- If you don’t want to eat what’s on your plate, have plain bread instead. That is your only option. No spreads to make it more appetizing. Just plain old bread. So that no-one can accuse us of starving you.
- Eat 80-90% if you want dessert. I try portion control, but don’t always get it right, there has to be some margin.
- Dessert is usually fruit or yogurt, but occasionally jelly or ice cream a couple of times a week.
Dessert is great motivator and I can’t remember that last time that one of mine opted for bread. But make sure you HOLD THE LINE. Give in once because someone made good attempt i.e. 50% …and they will never finish their vegetables without blood being spilled
Occasionally we do have misery at the table, because someone is desperate for ice-cream but the broccoli is too much to bear. But I am pleased to report that one particularly renowned broccoli-hater now only gives it a mild sneer before conceding and eating it. He will grow to love it one day I am sure of it…
I feel that our kids have a pretty varied taste palette, and yep they still put up a fight sometimes and often they can be sooooooo agonizingly slow that we resort to using a timer. But on the whole, mealtimes feel more like a win these days.
4) An allowance to buy their own crap
This one sounds like a win for the kids but it is actually indirectly a win for the parents.
Giving our spawn an allowance is a new initiative for us, see posts on strategy and implementation, but we are now maxing out on the benefits. Don’t get me wrong, the maintenance of any allowance scheme is fairly tiresome. And the irony of giving them ‘our money’ to waste on things ‘they want’ is not lost on me.
But there are so many life/money lessons unfolding along the way and so much less drama and friction about buying stuff, that I count this one as a win for parents.
As you may have gathered, we often cross the line between positive parenting and ‘learn the hard way’. But better they learn the hard way as a 6-yr-old with $6, than as a 20-yr-old with a $2,000 ‘parent-loan’.
So now an allowance is in play, instead of the previous begging and whinging – the following conversations are repeatedly materializing.
Want to get an ice-cream? Sure, I assume you brought your own money. You want juice with your meal instead of water when we are eating out? Front up. Don’t have any money left this week to buy a cupcake like your sister? That’s a shame. Santa didn’t get you that piece of plastic crap you asked for? You have an allowance, save up for it.
Winning. Just so much winning all around.
5) Add spinach to EVERYTHING. Everything. Maybe not desserts and baked goods. Yet.
Because I add it to everything, spinach is my new salt. Not really, because it doesn’t actually have much flavor at all and that’s why it works. I keep a giant bag of baby spinach in the fridge and put it into most meals.
I put spinach into pasta sauces, chilli, stews, stirfrys, soups, pesto, sandwiches, salads you name it, I can find a way to include it. And I give myself parent-points whenever I do! Parent-points are an actual thing, keep score for your own sanity. (Editor note from Mr Chaos – never suggest to your wife that you are awarding / deducting points from her. Just trust me on this one.)
Why? Because it’s loaded with nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. It’s not called a superfood for nothing. And because it’s green. It just makes me feel better about ANY meal.
You have to gently break your kids in – because initially, they are likely to be terrified of those little green bits and avoid them like the plague.
So with your first attempt, take a small handful of baby spinach (stay away from the bigger stuff or swiss chard, kids won’t be fooled so easily), chop it up small (try dodging those tiny pieces, suckers) and throw it into a bolognese sauce. They may not even notice, if they do, claim its herbs.
Get a bit bolder next time and take a large handful… if they complain, tell them to ‘close their eyes, they won’t even taste it!’ It’s not even a lie, they won’t. It doesn’t affect the flavor unless you throw the whole bag in.
I am now at the satisfying juncture, where I can throw in a couple of large handfuls, with little to no chopping and no one even mentions it. Yes, my beloved offspring, you will be healthy – even if a sprinkling of spinach doesn’t compensate for some of the other junk you eat. More vegetables is always a win. Keep reminding yourself, parent-points. I am all about the numbers.
Kids – you are going down!!!
So, this was meant to be a post of 10 family hacks but it got too long so I’m splitting it into different posts. But I would love to hear your feedback and hear about some of your own family wins and hacks! When it comes to beating the kids (NOT. ACTUAL. BEATING.) we need all the communal help we can get.
Here’s to more winning for parents everywhere. And Good Luck!