Try this: Let kids help set the rules. / George Doyle/Getty Images
Some days, no matter how hard you try, your kids drain every last drop of zen you’ve ever om’d in. But here’s the thing: Patience doesn’t have to be hard-won, and you don’t have to feel guilty that you don’t have enough, says Joy Berry, a child-development expert in New York City. “Instead, you have to get pragmatic and practical about setting up situations that won’t make you lose it in the first place.” Berry has some tips:
Be a planner. We all know our tempers are most likely to flare during the high-pressure parts of the day, so establish ways to build in lead time. For children who are morning dawdlers, Berry says, you might have them choose their clothes the night before and put their packed-and-ready backpacks by the door. “To ease homework drama, have them do it as soon as they’re home,” she adds.
Have weekly family meetings. “They give everyone a voice,” Berry says. You can use them to talk about what went well that week, what didn’t and how you can handle those problems differently next time. Offer up a few suggestions and then have a child (and the rest of the family) weigh in, too. “Once you get their consensus, kids are much more invested in seeing it through,” Berry says. “Plus, they come up with ideas that are unique and usually work.”
Set clear consequences. And ask the kids what the consequences should be. We know how this sounds (let the criminals be their own judge and jury?!), but it’s actually another powerful way to get children committed to making things less trying. “Instead of drawing a line, you make them your ally,” Berry says. That means involving children in the rule-setting, chore-assigning, routine-establishing process from the beginning. They’ll feel respected, and they’ll know exactly what will happen when they fall short. No questions. And, best of all, no arguments.