As we all know, parenting is no walk in the park. Thankfully I have learned a few things, or hacks, as the boys have gotten older. Things that make my life easier and simultaneously help them get ready for adulthood. Win Win! (the boys aren’t quite so sure of their win, but they will be!) While most of them were learned the hard way, some we learned from other parents, and others were eureka moments born of desperation. Here are 6 Parenting Hacks that really work (at least for our family). As I wrote the outline for this, I realized most of these hacks are pretty basic and I had a few ‘DUH! Why haven’t I been doing this all along?!’ moments, but hopefully they will save you from having that same realization!
It also helps that the boys are getting older. Jalyn is 13 and Cole just turned 11 (WHAAAT??) so they are able to take on and be trusted with more.
1. Making their own lunches for school
I absolutely HATE making lunches for the boys for school. I know it only takes 5 minutes and it is something I can almost do in my sleep, but I really hate it. So when friend recently shared that as of the start of the school year, her girls would be making their own lunches, I thought ‘YES!’.
We didn’t implement our ‘make it yourself’ policy until the 2nd week of school, thinking it would give them a chance to settle in before springing something new on them. That was a LONG week (and Jason even made them most of that week!).
They weren’t terribly thrilled by the prospect of making their own lunches every day, but they have stepped up and incorporated it into their morning routine like it had always been there. Although, as of today, Jalyn has decided to just buy lunch. Either way, I don’t have to make it!!
I felt this post from EveryGirlDad on a cellular level when I saw it last year. Now that Jalyn is buying his lunch and Cole is making his everyday – you’d think I’d get more done with my extra 18 hours!
2. To Dos
Earlier this year I made the ‘duh’ discovery that when I changed “chores” to “To Dos”, I got less whining and push back. Yay for semantics!!
— Lyndsi&Jason (@jlwatts99) January 19, 2016
We have a magnetic dry-erase board that I update everyday with the To Do of the day. While cleaning your room isn’t one that is put up there anymore, things that do are: dishes, vacuuming, cleaning their bathroom, dusting, sweeping, cleaning litter boxes, etc. Our newest addition to the To Do is Laundry. It is still in process but has already made an impact in our (mainly Jason’s) housework load. If it is a newer task, like laundry, or one that they will half ass or skip steps on, I will jot down the exact things I want done. For example, on Laundry day, they are responsible for sorting, starting, transferring, and folding however many loads we have. We haven’t quite figured out how to complete the laundry cycle by clothes being put up – but since this is something I struggle with, I’m not going to judge too harshly.
The Watts are not morning people. We each would rather not talk to anyone for the first 15-20 min after waking up. This posed a problem when it was time for us to wake them up in the morning. Mornings were stressful and full of whining and nagging. Introducing the alarm clock! They really latched onto this one (most mornings). The boys are responsible for getting themselves up in the morning and thanks to their phones, they can update what they wake up to based on their musical preference at the time. Right now, they are in a Beastie Boys phase. (which means I don’t really even have to set an alarm because “KICK IT” rings out through the house every morning.)
We’ve been using this one since JJ was in 3rd grade and it has really made a big difference. They boys typically get up without hassle and gives us all our buffer before having to interact. It also helps to keep us on track in the morning, because we start out on time.
4. Kid Dinner Night
Cole has always loved Food Network and Jason will regularly have ‘Chopped’ contests with him. Jalyn has gone through phases with food, but doesn’t hesitate to make himself something when hungry. So why were we making dinner every night, or on the busy nights grabbing Taco Casa? Not anymore!
By spending time in the kitchen with Jason or I, the boys already know how to make some basic meals, including spaghetti/meat sauce, grilled chicken, tacos, and pizza. On those busy nights, a basic meal is all that’s needed, especially if I’m not the one cooking it!
Cole has really jumped on this one. He’s made dinner for Jalyn and I (while Jason is out-of-town on business) multiple times – some without me even having to ask. He’s even declared Tuesday as his night!
5. Their mess is their mess
We’ve recently stopped nagging/begging/pleading, etc with the boys to clean their rooms. I realized that I don’t really care if their room is messy. As long as I have a path to the bed to tuck them in at night, I’m good.
They don’t spend just a ton of time in their rooms, so they aren’t dirty or gross necessarily, just messy. Clothes don’t typically make it to the hamper, shoes don’t make it to the closet, and random stuff doesn’t make it anywhere. Things just get thrown on the floor or stacked on surfaces.
I used to catch myself going in and picking up clothes or kicking shoes into the closet, but no more. I used to nag and bribe them to at least straighten up, but no more. If they can’t find something, we use that as a learning moment of how a clean room might help that. If company is coming (and will be using one of their rooms), they have to tidy up a bit.
I figure, once it becomes important to them (ie, they care what others think about their room, aka girls), they’ll make a better effort. We aren’t the tidiest family in the first place, so they come by it naturally. It usually takes some imaginary threshold being pushed that prompts me to clean up, they are going to have to find their thresholds.
On a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t really matter to me what their room looks like. So we let it go.
(I thought about posting pics (I even took a couple) of their rooms right now, as a way to possibly shame them into cleaning them, but decided that it probably wouldn’t have the effect I want and might make things a bit tense around here).
6. Calendars, Planners, and Apps
I have few calendar systems I use with success (except for that one time). There is the white board calendar I update monthly with family events, sports, scouts, dance, etc. I have a paper planner that I use mainly for work but will add in personal stuff when it may impact work. We had been using the calendar on our phones as well but it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.
We downloaded the app Cozi based on a recommendations. It’s more than just a calendar, it’s a family organizer. Everyone has a color and calendar, and they all work together. No need to share or set up different ones for different things, it is all be done here. Plus I can import the boys sports calendars, etc! It also has grocery and to do lists, and a place to store recipes. Jason and I have been using it for a while but we are still working on getting the boys to plug-in info like when projects are due, etc. We have done it for them for too long, but as Jalyn has more and more going on, I’m hoping he will see the Cozi light. (**I don’t get any compensation from Cozi, I just really like it ?**)
For school projects and homework, Jalyn has started using a paper planner. I found one on Amazon that already has the days broken up by subject. He’s loving the independence it provides. Since I didn’t start using planners until college, I’m hoping that by starting earlier he won’t let procrastination panic take over. Fingers Crossed!!
I’ve also recently jumped onto the Bullet Journal bandwagon (now there is something with a bunch of hacks!). So far, I’m really enjoying the way it makes me slow down at least for a minute every day. I end each day reviewing my day, planning for the next, and jotting things down on my gratitude spread. I start each day by prioritizing my day and writing down affirmations and/or quotes based on the meditation completed. My hand writing and layouts are pretty blah, but it is giving me the excuse to play around with hand lettering. I’d post a pic, but again, not very pretty just yet. . . Maybe in another month or two!
So there you have it! Parenting Hacks that work for our family and hopefully will work for yours! I would love to hear what hacks work for your family, so please let me know!