The summer heat was less noticeable in the shade of the fig tree. I was thankful for it’s invasive girth as it shielded and protected us. Except for the whining mosquitoes it was as pleasant as it could be in the early evening of July. My neighbor, who I hadn’t seen in a few months, surprised me with her candor and vulnerability as we talked about things from parenting to body positivity to self-acceptance.

She told me she admired the young parents she saw around her, including her own daughter, who had access to all this information and were able to do so much better by their kids. She loved watching her daughter parent. 

Her perspective refreshed me. I viewed the onslaught of information as a curse. There’s so much just a few mouse clicks away it feels like falling down a rabbit hole. No matter what I decided to do as a parent, I had people either berating or praising me for my choices. From co-sleeping, to breast-feeding, from natural birth to consequences, to vaccinations…there doesn’t seem to be the kind of scientific all-conclusive evidence one would hope to find.

I learned a long time ago to make the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, to be tender-hearted, willing to learn and to watch the parents around me. I read a few books, recommended by friends and our adoption agency. There’s a mound of information to get lost in and I decided that often the best thing I can do is trust my intuition.  To share what I’ve learned with an open hand, letting the people around me take up what works for them while I’m learning from them.

Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years:

1. KID OF THE DAY

Basically, ALL THE THINGS became sources of contention—who sat where when, who got to use the blue cup, who got to open the garage door, who got to hold the IPAD while they watched a movie. We instituted kid of the day and most of those conflicts dissipated. 

2. CHORES

Each morning the kids pull six craft sticks out a jar and they have all day to complete them. At the end of the day, all the sticks go back into the jar. This simple system works great for our family rhythm. I googled age appropriate chores for kids and picked 18 that need to be done every day (or at least checked on daily). Helping with laundry looks different between the 13 year old and the six year old, but they’re both able to participate.

3. ROOM CLEANLINESS

Each kid has a mason jar with 30 craft sticks, every day (or when I remember) I do a room check which means relatively clean bedroom (beds made, no clothing clutter, and able to walk across the floor) and bathroom (towels hung up, sink and counter free from toothpaste). If a kids “fails,” I take a stick. At the end of the month they get one dollar for every stick.

4. DISRESPECTING JAR

Ever seen New Girl? Remember how Schmidt often had to put a dollar in a jar? I borrowed it. This one is a newer system so we’ll see if it sticks, but so far it’s promising. When a child is being disrespectful, they have to put a quarter in the jar. It’s hopefully a playful way to remind the children that thoughts and feelings are OK, but that no matter what our words and attitudes need to be respectful. I hope it will teach me too.

Those are some things that as our kids have gotten older I’ve seen help with the day to day rhythm of cohabiting. What are some things you’ve tried? What worked? And what did you release cause it just wasn’t working for your family?

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