• I take a step back and really evaluate what pattern is taking place. What specific behaviors and attitudes of my children are making me cringe? How am I helping to create those very behaviors and attitudes? Viewing the pattern with a bit of objectivity allows me to see the bigger picture and it helps me to understand why my kids are behaving the way that they are…a crucial step to making a lasting change.
  • I let go of perfectionism. "All or nothing" thinking gets me every time. I think that in order to have ANY structure in my home, ALL things in my house need to be perfectly organized. Not so. Perfectionism is paralyzing. I have to let go of "perfect" and reach for "better".
  • I figure out how I want our time together to look. Instead of strictly focusing on what I don't like about the situation, I think about what I do want. What would realistically make a "successful day"? I have to be careful here not to go to the other extreme and create a boot camp experience for my kids where I am the drill sergeant. To be quite honest, I find myself fluctuating between those two poles more often than I'd like. Finding a flexible balance will be key in changing anything around here.
  • I work backwards. Now that I know what I don't like and I know what I would like, what are some specific things I could do that would help change the patterns?
  • Finally, I need to realize that there will be resistance. My kids had been living at Hotel Runkel for over two weeks. Of course they are going to buck at the idea of responsibility or structure. That doesn't mean anything. It is their job to test the limits that I set. It is my job to set them anyway.

I actually tried this approach earlier in the week by making a sheet that outlined a couple of daily chores and expectations and taped it to the TV for the next morning, that way, I wouldn't have to keep "reminding" them all day long. It was remarkable how my kids responded, almost as if they breathed a sigh of relief that I was back in control of me and back in charge of our home. Sure, they complained a bit and rolled their eyes, but the mean-spiritedness was gone. They earned TV time by doing chores. They picked up after themselves. They spent time playing piano and riding bikes. The process of trying to be more intentional helped me remember that I can be the calm authority figure that my kids really need.

Sometimes it takes a jolt (or a move) to wake me up and help me realize that things have strayed off course. So, I suppose that for all the agony that moving has been, it ultimately proved to be a catalyst for my growth. The irony is that as I try to put the finishing touches on this article, I am thinking, "All is need is some peace and quiet. The kids are making so much racket cleaning up the kitchen. Maybe I'll start them on a movie so that I can actually get something done."


Jenny Runkel is the Director of Content for ScreamFree.com, and wife of Hal Runkel, author of ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool.