As a full-time working mum, I get stressed out with kids when taking them out, and my pre-teen girl has her girlfriends coming around to play. This got me thinking – why do I keep stressing out? How can I manage these kids on a day out, they are only kids, and I am an adult! I work as an accountant and manage people daily; that doesn’t stress me as much as my kids do; why is that?
I looked into the matter and discovered that, unlike me, using management skills to manage people at work, while at home, I get loose and have no plan whatsoever. So the answer to getting me out of the ‘stress’ situation is to do a good management job on my kids!
This post is written after my own experience and review on managing my kids better (I have a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old), using management skills that I normally use at work but found extremely effective!
Plan your day out in Detail and in Advance
Working without a plan is definitely a NO-NO in a finance office. A good plan is a good start to the day. While we work towards the month-end deadline, a good plan leads to a good month-end close-down, the target is hit, and everyone is happy. So a good daily routine plays an important role as well. I have set a routine to perform and plan my project intermittently.
Using the same technique, I have always learned to jot down a simple list of where we go and what we do first and try to keep it as good routine practice. Trust me; this helps you save money as well. For example, if you know roughly how many hours you will be parking, so you are not paying too much or pay fewer hours, then you have the risk of getting a fine from the traffic warden.
My list is as below:
- What time do we set out?
This would consider if my girl got friends coming over to join our activity for the day. Then you can work out how many hours you are in town or the park, then roughly when to arrive home for tea, etc. But you can’t go anywhere unless her girlfriends have arrived. If this isn’t the case, be prepared for a major meltdown! Luckily I only have to deal with this a few times, and I can tell you I feel like hell if my pre-teen girl got let down by her friends. I won’t waste much time describing this here; it will be in another post.
- What to pack for the day out?
This must cover all bases and consider if it’s going to be a rainy day. It will always end up a big rucksack of stuff, but this is me – I’d rather take more than enough, so you can deal with unexpected situations such as major spillages or falling into mud if it’s a park trip, etc. I usually have a set of change of clothes for my kids permanently in my car boot, and they have come in handy a few times in the past. The basic ones I take will include a bottle of drinks for each and a bar of chocolate or a pack of crisps each. I know you want to say I will buy drinks and snacks for my kids when I’m out. But sometimes you might not reach a shop before they get hungry, and let me tell you, kids behave badly when they feel hungry, so to save the stress of having a screaming child in your car, just pack these in your bag in case! It works on me. A little chocolate bar bribe can ease off a lot of tension.
- What rules to give to the kids from the minute they get in the car?
My two kids have the opposite personality; even with a 6-year gap, they get into an argument with the tiniest details. I could probably put myself in a court judge role in a few years because I play this role of the judge so often. But to put it right for the day, you just need to think ahead and lay out rules before they enter into the muddy water. Such as territory issue as ‘no one is to step into the other person’s sitting space,’ ‘if you bump into the other person by accident, you still say sorry, I didn’t mean it, or a word of encouragement as ‘the person makes everyone happy in the car will get a reward of XXX.’ Trust me, if you think I’m exaggerating, you should come around to my house to see the fuss they make if no rules were given to them.
I found these rules before the trip work wonders if you can organize and remember them. I must admit, when I have forgotten many times when I’m in a rush, the result is pretty obvious – stress for me, screaming, and meltdown for the kids; no one is happy. So I make a mental note to myself to remember and remember!
- Logistics of the route, where first, where next?
This is fairly straightforward; you work out the easiest route and a convenient spot for the car park. Or if it’s coming back home for more activity, plan for food shopping on the way.
Communicate your plan
When I say communicate, you might want to ask, what do you mean? They are kids going out with you for half a day; what the fuss? In fact, this is what I learn from my workplace. Some people are so concerned about their own role they don’t realize the big impact on other people when they miss out on communication steps. This could be simply to remember to email out what’s happening to people who are likely to get affected. It not only gives people time to prepare what’s coming their way but also serves as a peacemaking tool to avoid department conflict.
So my approach is to tell kids the overall route plan first, then tell them, each step of the way, what would happen next. I believe this way; your kids learn to follow instructions independently, a lifetime skill you would like your kids to learn. Also, when they have a rough idea of what’s happening next, the likelihood of them wandering off is minimized. Imagine if you take them to a busy marketplace and the 2 older girls decide to look at some stalls, but you need to take your younger boy to see toys, then you need to say we will meet back at the entrance of the market in 20 minutes if we couldn’t find each other.
Obviously, the phone is at hand to help, but if they know where and when to find you, why bother phoning each other? If you have a pre-teen girl in your house as I do, the number of phone calls you hear daily make you want to through that phone in the bin (sorry, it’s just an expression I haven’t actually tried that yet…), so the fewer calls, the fewer stresses.
Check-in and give Incentives
When I say check-in, this step serves as the ‘implementation’ of project management. When you plan your steps, initiate the project, and communicate the milestone for each stage, you just need to check in and make sure everything goes as planned and gives reminders if you feel some parts haven’t been actioned as per plan.
Take my kid’s day-out activity as an example. We visited the places we planned and got back home to do their water balloon flight (I know what you are thinking – water balloon fight??? Yes, I let them fight with agreed terms). I have given them rules that no deliberately annoy each other, especially picking on the youngest kid in the group. Also, they are to tidy up after playing. My girl is experienced in getting things ready in this type of situation, such as dividing water balloons equally amongst everyone, then getting towels and spare clothes ready afterward.
Now, I only need to let them get on their own, sit down to have a brew, and stay out of their sight but somewhere I can easily go in and check on them. I usually read an eBook or watch some YouTube video or something in the living room. NEVER take this time to do your serious work, I mean office work. I have tried this, and the result is just stress + stress more. Because you want to complete a task if you are reading work emails or doing a spreadsheet report. This type of working task is impossible to stop, especially when you need to stop and check on your kids. The modern way of working anywhere or anytime doesn’t really work if you have pre-teen children in your household! I’ve tried that and failed miserably. I am not ashamed to admit that I feel absolutely guilty about shouting at my kids and accusing them of disrespect, whereas I chose to do my work at the wrong time. After all, you are the grown adult, a wrong management process will lead to misbehavior, and the kids are not to be blamed BUT YOURSELF!
Back to checking in, I let them play for 2 hours but went back to check on them twice in between reading Ferne Cotton’s ‘BE HAPPY’ (I know I’m really sad even choosing books like this to read). When I went to check on them, seeing them all playing nice and excitedly, I gave them positive praise “you are all playing so well; I’m so impressed.” This is the kind of phrase I use. I found it extremely effective in encouraging kids to continue their good behavior and not try something ‘funny.’ Trust me; I’ve witnessed so many tricky jokes they do for fun, for example, ‘let’s take my brother’s pants off’ has brought my poor boy into tears as the other 3 bigger girls including my own daughter teasing him and laughing hysterically……Seeing this kind of behavior only rushed my blood to my head, and I did the most irrational thing I was not supposed to, like shouting out loud to all the girls and stopping their game altogether. It stops the fun, and the girls just took it as ‘parents’!!!!
Now with this ‘check-in and incentive,’ I praise them with words, then promise deserts to the best-behaved child. It works wonders, and I become stress-free; we all win!
Keep your promises without a Fail
I am good at doing this, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up. I’m sure you would agree with me on this – hands up if you have forgotten a few times about THAT toy you promised if your kids do 1,2,3 like you asked, or the pocket money you pledged at the time, and you followed it up with ”sorry can give you that today I have got no change”. I have tried it all, and it only lets down your creditability when the next time you promise something. Your kids remember things you think they will not. It’s like a recorder they memorize it all when you least expect it.
But I’m known to be strict when I promise they will get their treatment, but misbehavior will not. I will make them serve their ‘time-out’ when they get ‘forgetful’ and make them feel sorry about not paying enough attention. I know my daughter’s friend complains that I’m too strict. But I stick to my guns that this is a necessary life lesson for the kids. So many kids these days have no sense of respect and responsibility. As parents are warned to do ‘encourage only’ talks. But if your kids learn they can get away with not behaving, they will just pick up the trend and continue, so it leaves misery and stress to you. It also leaves a chance for them to grow up knowing they don’t have to do what their parents say nor should they pay any respect, what the social order of our society would be like???
Anyway, I know I have ranted a bit here. Still, I do keep my promise to benefit my kids, even if it means I would have to drive my kids or go on my own to a supermarket at 10 pm at night just because the promise is due the next day and I forgot, but the child remembered and got out of his bed to challenge me (I got caught I know…)
So, in summary, a good plan to start the day and communicate with your kids from the beginning and through the day definitely helps you manage the whole day. Of course, when your kids behave, you check in again and again to give praise, but leave them alone to play; this leaves a peaceful mind for yourself while doing some leisure activity you enjoy. A stress-free day can be easily available!
For the day out and water balloon fight day, I even witnessed kids tidying up all the rubbish and debris in the garden; they also helped me finish off the table after tea (I didn’t mind cooking for 5 kids when they all behaved like angels you know what I mean?!!!) My daughter helped me to serve everyone strawberries as dessert as well.
I know what I put down here isn’t necessarily click with all your circumstances, but kids’ behavior is the main cause of my stress – so for a good healthy life, working on this issue is my priority. Just like the work/life balance we are talking about, if home life constantly gives you stress, even if you are a great achiever at work, you will not feel satisfaction in general.
I hope this post gives you some help when you have the same stress as me, and I’d be so happy to hear from you in the comment box below.
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