A “one thing after the other” rhythm helps cut down on parenting battles, meltdowns, and tantrums, and works great for moms.
“Time is not the same in South Africa as it is in other places.”
My colleagues and I looked at each other like… okay… so how will all of these numerous conferences, appointments, and meetings work?
It brought me back to this one time in Mexico when our guide told us we were going on a totally awesome excursion and that we needed to…
“Meet at the theater steps tomorrow afternoon.”
Being the Americans we were… we responded… “What do you mean ‘the afternoon’, afternoon is not a time it’s a time frame,” to which the Mexican guide replied… “See you tomorrow afternoon.”
I won’t tell you how long we sat there.
Anyway back to South Africa…
He said, “In South Africa, this is how time works… one thing happens after the other. When one thing is finished, we move on to the next.
We don’t start the next session until the first is finished, whenever that is. We don’t skip ahead to keep time. We just do things in order.”
I’m not gonna lie… this gave me – a Type A woman through and through – an eye twitch. However, I soon got the hang of it. But it wasn’t until I had children that I realized the real wisdom in this idea.
“Only after A is finished do you get to do B.”
How to gain cooperation and avoid power struggles by “first things first”
This post will help if your kids balk, delay, hassle, wrangle, and try to avoid doing what you’ve asked them. If you’d like to avoid some of the most basic parenting battles we find ourselves in, get these things in order.
Have a good routine down pat
First off, a proper routine makes the whole day go better. You don’t have to be a slave to your Timex or handy dandy absolutely necessary timer. But your kids do need to know the basic order of their days.
What happens when and what to expect. In fact, kids are more secure when they know what to expect.
Do certain things at similar times
By grouping certain activities at regular times during the day, children understand what to expect. They can see that:
- making the bed happens before breakfast
- brushing teeth happens before a bedtime story
- chore time happens before screen time
And on and on. By doing things at regular intervals they are able to anticipate what happens now and what will follow after.
If kids never know what’s happening next they are less likely to follow your lead. It’s a fact, routines are better for both the parent and the child.
Order your daily schedule well
When thinking about your day, choose the order well. Naps after snacks or meals. This way they aren’t hungry trying to sleep. Fun time after some work time.
Don’t put 3 hours worth of tedious activities in a row or getting cooperation will be nearly impossible.
Chore time before outside time or clean up before screen time take out half the work. If they want to do B they have to do A. By ordering your day in a way that flows well many power battles will be cut out.
Say, “First this, then that”
After you’ve ordered your day well and have a good routine, you just enforce it with naturally flowing consequences. We get up and make our beds.
The kids don’t come out of their rooms until the bed is made. Period. Sometimes my daughter will stay in her room and play for 30 minutes (she’s not yet in Kindergarten) and that’s fine. In fact, it’s quieter.
My 3-year-old son will often pretend he’s “never going to fold the towels.” I hand him a stack of towels on the floor of his room and can come out to play and watch a little TV when they’re done.
He may take a while and flail and whine and act like he won’t do it. But I go about my business and, before you know it, they’re folded in a neat pile outside his door where he’s waiting to go watch cartoons.
Here are printable chore cards to help you teach your children hard work, responsibility and contribution.
Don’t hover and repeat a million times while disciplining
We will become background noise if we stand around saying the same things over and over. They ignore us. We get annoyed. The kids don’t cooperate. We get ticked. They do whatever they want to do.
Then we get angry and take things personal. It’s a big unhappy cycle that goes nowhere and we all end up Past the Point.
How to pick your battles the “South African” way:
- Teach your children the “first things first” rule
- Explain clearly what happens. “First we make our beds then we eat breakfast.“
- Don’t hover and repeat yourself.
- Enforce the order. Don’t let them skip to get out of something.
- Tweak your day until it flows well.
This is how we avoid 90% of power struggles in our home. The other 10%?
They are kids, after all.