Struggling with your evenings with the kids? Read these time management tips for evenings with kids to make your after school and work hours run smoothly.
A fellow mom wrote in about her long commute, preceded by an even longer day at work. She picks up the kids, plops them in front of the television and scrambles to make dinner.
As if on cue, they start crying over trivial issues: I can’t find my paintbrush. I have lint on my hands. I wanted the blue cup.
And just as she places dinner on the table, the kids don’t want to eat. One insists on finishing his coloring while the other is still looking for her paintbrush.
Then it’s bath time, and again, she’s pleading with them to take their clothes off and use the potty. Instead, they’re kicking and screaming in what’s supposed to be a calm wind down to a long day. The end of the night isn’t any better, what with cleaning and preparing for the next day.
This doesn’t even include the nights when she has extra activities for the kids, from soccer to swimming. She hardly has time to help with homework, much less play.
Evenings have not been easy.
Time management tips for evenings with kids
So how do working moms cope with the evening madness when kids are wound up and not listening and a dozen chores need to be done? What time management skills do you need?
1. Something has to give
I don’t claim to have any magic tricks. Instead, I set priorities. And in doing so, something has to give. I do the things I like because I don’t do a whole lot of other things.
Let’s look at the larger triggers in the mom’s case above. The first that stood out to me was her long commute. That’s at least two hours every day spent commuting to work and back. Then she has her schedule. She gets home barely in time to prepare dinner after rushing to pick up her kids. She also juggles the activities that pepper their week: swimming, soccer and the like.
Some of these changes are easier to give up—cut down the kids’ activities to one per season, let’s say. Others need you to take a hard look at your job and its proximity to your home, for instance.
Take a long-term look at your priorities, including where you live, your job, your schedule. We can’t dismantle our lives and change jobs at a second’s notice. But if you find yourself hammered down with the long-term scenario you find yourself stuck in, perhaps it’s time to look at how to get un-stuck.
2. Reconnect after being apart
Want to know the biggest prevention of outbursts? Reconnect with your kids the instant you see them. Look them in the eye, give them a hug, smile, and be glad to see them.
Kids don’t like being away from us. At school, they work hard to behave the best they could: A friend said something mean? Your son fights the urge to cry. He couldn’t understand the teacher’s instructions? He keeps it to himself. Did he missed you during the day? Well, that may be why he acts up when you’re reunited.
When he’s back safe in your company, he unleashes his pent-up emotions. He might also express his sadness at not having you by his side. He knows you won’t laugh, berate or leave him for doing so.
But when we reconnect on a genuine level, that bond helps ease him back into your presence. You’re giving him yourself 100% in that smile, or that extra squeeze, or in the way your face lights up when you see one another. He might still have the occasional meltdown, but they’ll be less frequent, and less intense.
Kids see separation as any time you’re apart—even during bedtime. And so the need to reconnect can happen at pick up time, in the morning, after a nap, or even while you stepped out to run a quick errand.
Do this: The next time you reconnect with your kids, remove the day’s stress from your being and be happy to reunite with your kids. Let it show on your face, your body and in the words you use.
3. Offer smooth transitions from one activity to another
Transitioning kids from one activity to another isn’t easy. Whether it’s telling them to wash their hands or use the potty or come to the table or sit in the bath, all we do is nag them from one place to the next.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
First, offer a heads up between each transition. Imagine you’re in the middle of reading a terrific book. Now imagine your partner saying, “Okay, time to come to dinner now. Right now. If you don’t come, I’m taking that book away.”
We’re not honoring their focus and zest at that moment, are we?
Instead, tell your kids you’ll be serving dinner in five minutes. Or if you’re in the middle of playing, remind them that after this one tickle-fest, it’s time to take a bath. Or that they have five more blocks to stack before it’s time to clean the toys up.
We don’t just break in to their activity. We give them a chance to wind down and wrap up.
Another tip about transitions? Don’t make them so dour. Don’t threaten—it hardly works. Make it fun. Or matter-of-fact. And in a loving, not threatening way: “It’s bath time!” (said with a big smile).
4. Be firm and stand your ground
Parents shouldn’t plead.
This doesn’t mean we’re mean or inflexible. But we hold fast to our rules and establish limits. We can set boundaries in a loving way, but boundaries still have to be made.
Set natural consequences, and follow through with them—consistently.
And explain why. Kids like to know the reason: “Take your shoes off so we don’t muddy the carpet.” Eventually taking her shoes off will become second nature, and she’ll take out her toothbrush without you uttering a command. For now, explain the actions’ importance if they refuse.
5. Spend time together
You come home with a ton of tasks in your mind. And you might think, If your kids weren’t in the way, you’d get them done so much faster. Except now you have to find something to occupy them. You might shoo them away or rush like crazy in the minutes you have between screams and messy clean ups and lost toys.
Want to know a secret to avoid all that? Spend time with your kids, even for as little as 15 minutes.
Devote 100% of your time to them: No cooking, no looking through bills or your phone, no wiping the dinner table while you listen. Be with your kids for a few minutes, preferably right when you get home.
Eat a snack together, discuss your days at work and at school, play with their toys.
Once they’ve reconnected, you’ll both have refilled your cups of one another and be more at peace to go about the rest of your evening.
Now your daughter won’t feel like she has to nag or whine to grab your attention. Set her up with play dough near the kitchen and don’t feel terrible you’re cooking at the same time. Cook or clean together.
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Make spending time a priority, just as you would making dinner or scheduling an appointment. Shower your kids with attention, and you’ll notice the more you do, the less outbursts you’ll see.
Giving kids your full attention will make them play more by themselves (and doing the opposite means you have to entertain them all the time).
What will your evenings be like?
A ton of parents are trying to survive their evenings. They scramble home, turn on the television, and juggle cooking while listening to their kids.
Is that what a fun, family evening looks like?
Here’s a challenge: Examine your life and cut down to make it less stressful. Give a warm smile and an even bigger hug the instant you see your kids. Be firm with your boundaries and transition your kids—in a fun way—from one activity to another. And most importantly, spend quality time with your kids, even for a few minutes.
Parenting is more about the parent than the kids. Much of how smoothly or erratically we run our homes has more to do with our feelings and reactions than on our kids.
Sure, they may have had a bad day at school. They may be teething. Situations might be out of our control.
But the rest is up to you. Because your kids want you, even—and perhaps especially—during those crazy, “witching” hours.
Get more tips:
- How to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids After Work
- 4 Benefits of Teaching Kids Responsibility
- Set Boundaries — Kids Actually Want Them
- Moms, We Actually Have More Time than We Think
- Genius Ways to Make Bedtime Easier
Your turn: How are your evenings at home with the kids? What are your best time management tips for evenings with kids?
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