I’ve always admired – and aspired – to those families whose homes run orderly and efficiently; who have so established patterns and expectations that bedtime seems more a matter of the parents pushing “start” on a well-oiled machine than grabbing their lasso and herding the cantankerous cattle into their proper pens. Where dinner clean up seems right out of a handbook for the industrial age and its factory-like division of labor rather than the aimless wanderings of children who don’t seem to remember that they’ve performed these tasks twenty times before or how to clean up without mearly transferring the mess to another room.
In these families that I see or imagine or hear of – like one hears of a legend that seems, at some time, to have been mostly true – there seems to be such peace. Such Biblical obedience. Such cleanliness.
In our home, we’ve had some success in these areas, but never quite as thoroughly as I’d like. The same can be said for training specific skills, like table manners and cleaning chores. There has been one primary obstacle to achieving a more complete and blissful success: poor parenting. And sin natures. I forgot about sin natures, so maybe there are two primary obstacles, but I can’t do anything about the second one. I can do something about parenting.
The problem is that after one spends the time to make a plan for the efficient ordering of home life – complete with charts, signs, threats, and rewards – one has to actually carry it out over and over and over until it it can run down the familiar tracks of habit. This is where we often fail. We stick to our plan until the edge of chaos has been taken off and things are beginning to run well, and then, by degrees, we make an exception here and there; we forget to follow through; we fail to deliver on either the threats or the rewards and suddenly we’re right back to herding and wandering, only now we’ve reinforced to our kids that we don’t always do what we say we will.
In short, we fail to be consistent.
My wife and I recently took a couple of nights away (delightful!) and spent a good deal of time talking about just these sorts of things. We came up with several routines (evening and bedtime, primarily) and several behaviors (manners at the table and how to interact with adults in a more mature manner) that we are going to make the emphasis for our family heading into this new school year. Further, as we have hopefully learned from past failure, we intend to have a short conversation once a month to promote consistency and to evaluate how we are doing on these specific items, as well as a few other marriage/parenting related goals we’ve set that focus more on our own behaviors, rather than our kids.
“If at first you don’t succeed….” So the saying goes. Thus far, our evening and bedtime routines are off to a fabulous start, but in success is often hidden the temptation to failure. Exceptions crop up; situations we hadn’t thought of; the business of life. Lord willing, I’ll be able to write an update to this post in several months that will highlight our stunning success.
Or at least some stunning progress.