Favorite Parenting Strategies of a Big Family

From time to time, the kids in my house behave poorly.
And by time to time, I mean every few seconds. Which is totally endearing and life-giving all at the same time.
The only thing more frustrating than kid’s lousy behavior is a missing game plan for said lousy behavior.
We don’t usually come up with gold on the spot, do we parents?
For me, having a good strategy cuts that frustration in half.  
Bad behavior is less horrible when we are prepared for it.
My husband and I are always trying to come up with better systems to control our chaos. With seven savages, ranging from preschool to high school, it can get crazy really fast. 
Of course, what works divinely for our family might be a total headache for yours. And what is perfect today might fall apart tomorrow. We have had to revamp every single system we ever owned.
Gosh, we parents are some resilient folks.
Since we are all on the same team, feel free to take anything you find here and embrace it as your own.
God speed.
Or whatever it is that brave travelers say to each other.

1. The Whisper Chair

Hollering, yelling, raising our voices. Whatever you want to call it, most of my family does plenty of it.
Enter: The Whisper Chair.
Yelling kids plant their hindquarters in the seat with a timer set for five minutes. They are welcome to whisper and read the Bible story books stored beside it.
I tell them it’s just practice for using their soft voices.
My personal version of The Whisper Chair is in my bedroom beside my stack of books and chocolate. Take me out.

2. Fifteen Minutes

With a big family, we discovered that things run smoother on a schedule. So breakfast starts at the same time every school morning.
Late for breakfast? Slow getting out the door?
Looks like you are too tired to function at your tippy-top. Going to bed fifteen minutes early tonight will probably fix that.
And if not, oh well. We tried. Said the parent who dealt with 15 fewer minutes of nighttime hassles.
(If you are wondering how we remember these things, keep reading. I spill my secret.)

3. Three Nice Things

My darlings tend to throw names around. And they aren’t usually of the Sweetie Pie variety.
The rule in our house is simple: Call someone an unkind name, say three nice things about them. If they stall, that number goes up.
Same is true for the forbidden “Shut up.”
Now that our kids are tossing around the same three compliments every time, we are forced to rethink. Although you would think we would just be thrilled to hear “You’re nice you’re kind you’re funny” thirty times a day.
If this is new for your family, you might get a day or two out of it.

4. The Quarter Box

9 people living in one house x 10,000 items a piece = HOLY CRAP WHERE DID THIS ALL COME FROM?

This big purple box has become a dear friend of mine.

“Mom’s Quarter Box: the new home for things left lying around. Want them back? For a quarter, they can be yours again. All proceeds donated to charity.”
The kids are welcome to retrieve items from the box whenever they find them missing and drop their quarters in the jar. When the box cannot possibly close around that last sweatshirt, bless it’s heart, we hold an auction and everyone can buy back their forgotten items. Or if they chose not to, their siblings bid on the leftover stuff.

The weird thing? Most of the time my kids don’t even notice when their things go missing. Excess much?

5. The Get Along Shirt

When the fighting start to drain everyone’s energy, go ahead and introduce this bad boy, and let the entertainment begin.
Step one: Swing by your local Walmart for a 4XL men’s t-shirt.
Step two: Wait for some combat.
Step three: Dish out a chore for the combatants. Together. In the shirt. At the same time.
Step four: Watch good old fashioned humor ease the tension.
(Word of caution. This is only helpful when the siblings actually like each other behind all the insults and shin kicks. If two kids are truly struggling with each other, pass this one up.)

6. Extra Chores

Let it never be said of the Yoder kids, that those around them didn’t know how they feel about chores. I think they had a secret meeting once and made Completely Honest their creed.
Quick fix: an extra chore for every moan, complaint, huff, puff or snarl. Catch me on a stern day and even that hairy eyeball you just tossed might land you an additional errand. Wash a window, fold a load, pick up a dozen toys. There are always a thousand small chores at our fingertips.

7. Chore Trade

One of our favorite kids hacks comes from Loving Our Kids on Purpose. (I’m getting no kickbacks for bragging about this book. For a lower stress, higher responsibility outlook on intentional parenting, for real, get this book!)
Simply put, when our kids forget or “forget” to do a chore, we don’t have to fume or nag. We parents just swap tasks with them. (Note: it is unnecessary to fume or nag, not to be confused with impossible.)
Forget to sweep off the little front porch? Hey buddy, I got it. My chore was to sweep out the entire garage, so I am most happy to trade you.

8. Laundry

When my offspring hit Jr. High, their laundry is not longer my concern. Which means in those earlier years, I invite them (that sounds so polite doesn’t it?) to start learning laundry.
As soon as they can carry, they put away their own.
As soon as they can fold, they wad up their own.
Starting in seventh grade, they are responsible to keep their laundry separate from their siblings, wash, dry, fold, wear, repeat. And I have friends who start their kids even younger. So I think I’m being generous here.
There is no reason we parents need to be locked into laundry duty. I raise my hallelujah.

9. Staggered Bedtimes

Long before we had a thirteen year span from oldest to youngest, we started giving the kids their own bedtimes.
The littlest goes down at 7:45 followed by 8:15, etc.
The really great part is that every sweet little munchkin gets a small bit of solitary time with mom or dad before lights out.
The really true part is that we occasionally want to throw the sweet munchkins in bed at 4:45.

 10. The White Board

Lest you imagine I effortlessly remember who has an extra chore to swap, who was late for breakfast and when Sassy Pants gets her pod back, let me assure you, MY PARENT BRAIN IS CHARRED.
So I lean heavily on a dry erase board that clings to our refrigerator. That white square is my actual brain.
When a name is on the board, heaven help me if a kid takes an eraser to it. The board belongs to Mom alone.
When I die, it will be buried beside me, laid to the eternal rest it deserves. Well done, good and faithful board.
There you have it.
Having a whole throng of kids doesn’t make me and mine better parents, it just means we get to miscalculate, mishandle, misjudge and mismanage more kids.
But since we learn from all of our screw ups, OK fine. I guess that does make us better parents.
What about YOU, Better Parent?
What are your favorite parenting strategies?
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  1. Love the idea of the get along shirt — thanks, Carissa!

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