This weekend we went out to eat after our family photo session, and within a couple of hours, Sean was hit hard with food poisoning. The next day he stayed home from church to rest and recover from an almost sleepless night while the kids and I went to church and grocery shopping. Taking six kids to Aldi and Walmart on a Sunday isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, but we survived!
Whenever we travel with our kids—whether down the east coast to visit my parents in Florida, to the local ski hill for the day, or just across town to a restaurant—we get comments about how brave we are to take them all out. And even more so when one of us has all of them solo. But we’ve always loved eating out and going on adventures, and having kids hasn’t changed that for us, so not doing these things isn’t an option we’ve considered.
While there have been seasons when we’ve hunkered down at home (like the stage where our third daughter would regularly have silent meltdowns and refuse to take another step, often in inconvenient places like the middle of the street when my arms were full), we tend to follow a simple principle:
When you need to do it MORE not LESS.
If something is hard to do with our kids, it doesn’t mean we need to do it less; it means we need to do it more.
Whether it’s grocery shopping, eating out, hiking a mountain, or traveling, we’ve seen this principle at playtime and time again.
While our natural inclination is to avoid those hard situations, the more we do them, the better we’re able to anticipate and respond to the trouble spots, the better they understand our expectations for their behavior (and the consequences for not following the rules), and the better everyone behaves.
For example, there was a season when I avoided taking everyone into the store with me at pretty much all costs. When we did end up going in all together, the kids were out of control—weaving in and out of racks, touching everything, wandering off. I resolved then and there that we would go in as a family more often and before we went in each time, I simply reminded them of our expectations while reminding myself that it was a training exercise.
Once it became routine for us, it also became easier. Which is not to say that they’re now perfect angels or I never have to remind them of the rules. We’re a spicy family, which means my kids have a lot of energy and can easily get loud in their exuberance for life. But they’re still expected to be conscientious and respectful of the people around them, which they learn to do through practice.
I am pretty sure this rule applies to every area of parenting (or, let’s face it, life), and whenever I find myself frustrated at our kids’ behavior or tempted to avoid a specific situation, I remind myself that practice makes perfect and commit to doing the activity in question more and not less!