I thought of some things we’ve done over the years that have helped us in this department:
Teach your children to obey.
I know this sounds so basic, but really, there is nothing more exhausting than spending a day arguing over every.little.thing. with a two year old. Or a thirteen year old. Obedience is the basis of a peaceful home. If you don’t believe it, read this:
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.
Peace. Doesn't that sound wonderful?
There are lots of books, lots of methods, that all incorporate the basic biblical premise that parents are to be in charge. I used to have lots of legalistic opinions on this subject, but the longer I'm a parent, the more I agree with Kevin Leman, who says (my paraphrase), "It really doesn't matter so much what you do. Just do something, every time."
Of course we need to be reasonable in our requests, but in general, children can be taught to obey “because I said so.” (I love John Rosemond’s book by the same title). Kids may whine, cry, fuss, and argue, but the fact remains: God put you in charge. Don’t apologize for it. Just calmly expect obedience.
As James Dobson says (my paraphrase), Children can’t adequately raise themselves. Don't believe the lie. You are the best person for the job. Your kids need you to prepare them for adult life, and that includes submitting to authority and following instructions exactly.
Have a plan.
If you don’t have some sort of plan, kids are masters at capitalizing on your indecision. Don’t have a plan for supper? “Aw, Mom, we haven’t had pizza in YEARS!” Don’t know what you’re going to do today? Watch out! Kids have a way of monopolizing your time so that you can’t get even your most basic to-do’s done (how many times have I looked up and haven't even had a shower?).
Planning, for me, helps give me backbone. I can matter-of-factly say, “No, we are not making a papier-mache volcano today because today is laundry day. Messy project day is Thursday,” or, “I have fifteen minutes before I start dinner. Let’s read a story!”
Whether it’s planning a menu (join up with Laura over at Org Junkie to get inspired), having a weekly plan, or planning a basic routine for your children’s day, having a plan relieves you of the stress of uncertainty. Kids will press their own agenda with no regard for yours whatsoever. The little despots.
Uncertainty on your part also stresses your kids. When they know exactly what to expect, they don’t have to act out in order to feel around for where you decided to place the boundary today, which might be in a different place than it was yesterday. It’s a win-win situation.
Routine is your friend, not just in the preschool years, when you are laying the foundation, but as years go by and your kids take on more and more responsibility for themselves. If you establish a few principal routines such as "Work before play," "Clean up before dinner," or "Make your bed before you leave the house," you will reap the benefit for many years to come.
Of course, planning for romance is foreign to most of us tired moms, but let me tell you, it is much better to plan for it than be surprised at 11:00 p.m., when your eyelids are already glued to your eyeballs. Send your husband a text message, email, voice mail or phone call early in the day. "I’m looking forward to tonight," may be all he needs to get home on time and help out with the evening routine. I dare you to try it.
Evenings are a beating. My husband generally doesn’t get home until 6:30 or 7:00, which means there is precious little time to get everything done after dinner. You have to get creative. Who says you have to start dinner right before you are going to eat it? Chop the carrots for dinner at lunch time and put them in the fridge. Give your babies a bath after their nap. Refuse to check email in the evening. Make kids do homework before dinner.
This all goes hand in hand with having a plan. I can stew and fuss all I want, but unless I have some expectations that I communicate C.L.E.A.R.L.Y. to my kids (“I will be happy to feed you dinner when your lunch box is put away and your backpack is hung on a hook.”) all I’m doing is making myself stressed. It’s very simple. Place the burden directly on the shoulders of the small people who are responsible for it. They can do it. Really.
Okay, that’s enough for today. I have a few more thoughts, but my POD is awaiting me, and besides, I sense myself stepping up on my soapbox, and I don’t want to scare you.