Our home is a busy place.
It’s noisy and bustling, sometimes dirty, always lived-in.
It’s not cold, chaotic or controlled.
It’s warm and welcoming and imperfect.
My hubby and I work very hard to set the tone of our home. We have made conscious choices to create a healthy atmosphere for our family.
The other night before bed, we were reading Moments With You: Daily Connections for Couples together. In it, Donna Otto, founder of Homemakers by Choice, writes, “parents are not called to be the thermometers in the home, but the thermostats…Thermostats don’t just read the temperature, they guide. They determine how warm or cool the home environment will be.”
It’s so true! We’ve found when there is tension in our marriage or when we are grumpy and discontent, so are our children. They are taking their cues from us.
We want our home to have purpose and direction. It has been six months since we took back control of the time we spent in our home. I was stressed about our hectic after-school schedule and TV and video games ruled our home.
I cannot tell you how much the tone has changed! The temperature is just right (disclaimer: we do have a 2 year old, so please take that into account).
How we changed the tone of our home:
- Minimized TV and video games-We cut off the Cable (in the Family Room. Hubby and I still have basic cable in our bedroom) and we limit ALL screen time (TV, Wii, DS, etc.) to 30 minutes a day during the week. This was tough for my kids at first. But they acclimatized to the temperature after awhile and we have seen a complete turn around in their attitudes and even desire to watch TV.
- Significantly reduced extracurricular activities-My kids are involved in Boy/Girl Scouts monthly and that’s it! We don’t do any sports or lessons, at all! I’m not opposed to these, but for us, it was just too much. Not only was it very expensive, we were constantly rushing from one activity to another after school. We reserve sports for the summer, where my kids can ‘try out’ a sport for six weeks through the YMCA. Around here, we are definitely in the minority since my kids haven’t found their sport (with private lessons), but they are 9 and nearly 7. The have plenty of time to pursue sports they really love in junior high and high school.
- Family meals-We eat approximately six nights a week around our table, together. We cook and clean and talk, together. I love this time. A couple of nights a week, we use some conversation starters to make sure we’re communicating with our kids about issues they may be having (Here’s a great Character Building book) .
- Utilize our time-Without the distractions of TV and activities, we have a lot of time on our hands. We spend much of it in our backyard, in our new garden, riding bikes, and taking walks. Baking and crafting have become family affairs. We love family movie night with popcorn and blankets. Without the expense of extracurricular activities, we set money aside to have special family nights at my kid’s favorite spots, monthly.
- Using a Family calendar-We have a family calendar displayed in a central location. We keep track of our schedule as a whole and we pencil in family nights. This has really helped to alleviate confusion and prevented cramming too much into our schedules. When I see the calendar begin to fill up, I know when we need to say yes or no. A crazy schedule leads to chaos for our family!
- Encouraging reading-My kids love to read. I love seeing them read. I secretly love catching them reading after hours under their covers with a flashlight. During this time of limited TV, I have seen an amazing love of books come alive in my kids. I’m going to be sharing more about this one in the next few weeks.
- Enforcing a bedtime routine-One or both of us pray with our kids at bedtime. We snuggle and talk and whisper. We are also consistent with bedtime on weeknights.
- Flexibility- All of these guidelines just become rules if we don’t have flexibility. We don’t want our home to be controlled and we don’t want to stifle our children’s energy. Everything we do is coupled with a spirit of flexibility. My kids have brightened at unplanned spontaneity and blossomed when we gave them a chance to voice their opinions.
We are not perfect and sometimes even our best laid plans go array. In those moments of chaos, I take a deep breath, think through how we got to that place and try to adjust the temperature in our home.
Because sometimes it’s too hot, other times it’s too cold. And every once in awhile, it’s just right.