In the last post, about the letter V, I shared some fun times Cohen and I had with some of our good friends. In this post, I want to share with you some of my tips for keeping more than one child at your house (may also be some good tips for folks with more than one child all the time).
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. I’m only a mommy. I have just one child. My only qualification is that I’ve done this before and this is what works for me.
I’m going to start with this great picture of Cohen and his friends Victoria and Katelyn.
Keeping 3 or 5 children in your home is not difficult. There are times when it is more challenging than others, but it’s not difficult. You do need rules, and you must stick by them. I love this picture, because my rule is when I’m fixing lunch, no one can be in the kitchen. (Lots of reasons for this rule…but mostly because all the kids do when I’m cooking is beg for food…gets a little annoying after a few minutes). In this picture, all the kids are politely sitting right outside of the kitchen waiting for their food to be ready. This is not a rule I typically have when it’s just me and Cohen, but when there are more than just 1, it’s a must!
Some other rules you may consider when keeping more than one kid (especially if you are used to having just one all the time)…
Drinks are only allowed in the kitchen, and must be kept on the table.
I can’t stand to have my child walk around with a drink cup! I don’t allow him to do it, so I don’t allow the others to do it. They learn this one really quick and I didn’t have any problems with any of them. The younger kids need reminding often. I find that if I wait for them to set the cup down and go put it back on the table myself, they never remember. What I do instead is ask the child with the cup to please go put it back on the table and remember to keep drinks in the kitchen, then they remember next time.
Eat what is on your plate, and do not share food.
Cohen would eat everyone's food if they let him. Some of the kids are allergic to things. It’s important that we teach them when they are little not to share food or drinks. This is a rule that Jace and I try to observe everyday (at home or restaurants). When we eat dinner at home or at a restaurant, Cohen has his own plate and his own chair. He must stay in that chair and eat off of his own plate. He is not supposed to request food from other people’s plates. If he doesn’t like what he ordered or what I’ve cooked, too bad. You will not take someone else’s food.
Snacks are at a specific time, and not just whenever you get hungry.
My child doesn’t usually get snacks. I find that he doesn’t eat his lunch as well if I offer him snacks earlier in the day. Also, he wakes up at 8, has breakfast at 8:30 and lunch is usually served at 11:30. No time for snacks! When I’m keeping other kids, I know they are used to eating a snack, so I offer it to them around 9:30-10:00. Once snack time is over, the food is put away and there is nothing else to eat until lunch.
When Cohen came home from Russia, we had some problems with him overeating and hoarding food. It was easier for us to deal with this by giving him specific eating time. I do not allow Cohen to go to the fridge and pull out whatever he wants and eat it whenever he wants. Same rule goes for the other kids. The kitchen will not have a steady flow of traffic all day because kids are eating crackers, gummy snacks, or fruit whenever they want. It may seem cruel to tell a hungry child “no” but it’s best. I know that whatever they have for lunch or whatever their parents serve them for dinner will be better than the gummy snacks they want right then.
You must stay at the table and in your own chair until everyone is done eating, or until you have been excused by an adult.
I find that if you give kids the right to get up and wonder around, they won’t eat. If I force all the kids to sit and wait until everyone is done, they encourage each other to eat. Once I see that they are done eating, I may dismiss them one at a time to pickup their mess, wash their faces, etc.
Jace and I have this same rule for restaurants. I must say, since we have implemented this rule and we stick by it, our dining out experiences with our 3 year old are WONDERFUL! I really love going out to eat with him. He knows that no matter what, he cannot get up from his chair and he cannot leave the table. He’s also not allowed to sit in someone’s lap while he eats. How am I supposed to eat if I have a kid in my lap?
Everyone must clean up their own mess.
After everyone is done eating, EVERYONE is required to take their plates, cups, trash, etc. to the garbage or sink. I make Cohen do this after every meal. I think it’s a great way for him to contribute to cleaning up, since he can’t really wash dishes or load the dishwasher. I have also found that if I make Cohen clean up his mess, he’s less likely to make a huge mess when he eats. For example, we went through a phase where all he wanted was pudding. I love pudding, and it’s sugar free! He was having major problems getting the pudding from the cup into his mouth. It was all over the table, chairs, floor, and his clothes. After he had to clean up that mess a few times, I noticed that he was being a little more cautious and eating it slower and taking smaller bites.
During naptime, everyone will be quiet and stay on their mat.
Our bedtime/naptime routine is simple. When the door is closed, you are to be in your bed and quiet. When we have friends over, that is no different. The only difference is that if there are lots of kids and they don’t all usually take naps, I may play a movie and let the kids nap in the playroom. Everyone has their own mat, blanket, and pillow. Everyone must stay very quiet and they cannot get off of the mat.
I do this because out of a group of 5 kids, there is bound to be one that wants/needs a nap. If all the other kids are moving around and making noise, that one will not be able to sleep. It’s inconsiderate and I don’t allow it.
The only child that seemed to have a problem with this was mine. I simply moved his mat to the other room, and he was no longer allowed to watch the movie. Simple fix. And by doing that, he actually went to sleep and was much happier later that day. Worked out great for everyone!
I decide when naptime is over.
Just because you wake up from your rest, or the movie is over does not mean that naptime is over. I require that Cohen stay in his room, in his bed, for at least 1.5 hours. That means if he chooses not to go to sleep, he still sits there for all that time and rests. This same rule goes for naptime when friends are over at our house. All children need some down time, and this is a nice way to give it to them. Their little brains and body’s need to rest! It’s also a great time for me to rest as well. I don’t take naps, but when Cohen is napping, I usually sit down and eat my lunch, read a non-children book/magazine/blog, write, or watch a tv show (yep…I watch TV while my kid naps!). I’m writing this blog right now while Cohen is in his room “napping.”
You can say “Emily, that’s too many rules,” if you wish. I don’t think it is. When your child is at preschool, do you think the teacher isn’t observing these same rules, and then some? Why do we treat our kids so differently when they are with us? Why do we choose to undo what the teachers have tried to do all day? Isn’t it easier to have a few rules so that you can have a great day with 1 or 5 kids? Also, I stay with my child all day, everyday. If he’s unruly, out of control, inconsiderate, and disrespectful, that makes my day miserable and makes me not want to be around him. I setup these rules so that Cohen and I can have a pleasant day together and keep making happy memories.
I’m also under the impression that if we teach them rules like this when they are little, then I’m not going to be teaching my children simple table manners at 16. When my child is 16 I’m fairly certain that there will be a whole new set of life lessons I will be teaching him.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Do you have some tips you’d like to offer me and other moms?