Real Life Parenting Tips

I wanted to title this post How to Go From Good Parenting to Great Parenting. But it’s hard to write about great parenting, when you’ve had one of those weeks.

Of course, my next title might have been: Objects in Picture Aren’t As Happy as They Appear. (Because driving to family pictures creates the perfect storm, dontchaknow?)


So, I thought it might be better to just be real and share some tips that are working for us . It’s something I do best, share my junk, the good and the bad.

[My kids are at that age where I want to protect their privacy, so I’m going to keep their struggles private for now, but still share what I’m learning]

On Sibling Rivalry:

I told my hubby the other night of my two oldest, I never argued like them. He said, Remember you told me fighting drove your parents crazy? Me: Oh yeah, my twin and I would fight in the closet–very quietly. Do you know how hard it is to quietly beat each other up?

Your Kids Will Not Get Along 100% of the Time– Do you? My hubby and I don’t yell and scream at each other, but we do argue sometimes. It’s actually pretty  healthy for us to get something settled, or find out how we both feel about it. Occasionally, we agree-to-disagree on stuff. It’s called living together and we can’t expect less from our kids. When my kids are really arguing, I let them, as long as they are being respectful, keeping their hands to themselves without bullying or intimidating. I want them to learn to give in and to stand firm. It’s a dance for all of us, but in the end, we want to be better because we’ve worked something out that needed to be dealt with.

When Your Child Crosses the Line-It will happen, especially with older, stronger siblings. Finding a way to positively correct is challenging. We don’t always get this right. We are still learning as and as our children get older, it changes. But we won’t allow bullying in our home.  A few weeks ago, I sat down with one of my children and explained that they were intimidating their sibling. I asked for them to write an apology letter. This could have gone either way, but I was moved by the letter from one of my kids to the other. I’ve seen a heartfelt change in both since.


On Discipline:

Some things that have worked for us:

  • Writing sentences, writing Scripture —these are not appropriate punishments for kids who LOVE to write. (Yes, learned this the hard way)
  • Reward charts- stickers for positive attitudes, helpful behavior, great school conduct, chores, etc
  • B doesn’t happen before A- We got this from the book Have a New Kid by Friday. It’s awesome. If A is “clean your room” and B is “go play with a friend” B does not happen until A happens. It gives your child the responsibility of doing what you asked them to do. This is not easy because they might whine, cry and throw a fit about B. Just FYI
  • Chore jar is our newest one (thanks, Karen!)- if there’s a bad attitude or an ugly remark, my kids go get a chore and have to complete it immediately. It’s great because this helps me not to engage  and turn a sassy remark into a battle.

On Responsibility:

I think every child over 1 should have age-appropriate responsibilities, whether it’s picking up toys that were played with or doing your own laundry.

  • Don’t make their room a battleground. I’m type A, this is one of the areas I’m most challenged in. My hubby helps me (not have heart palpitations) by checking for me and pointing out areas that need work to my kids. We’ve recently started a weekly check (instead of whenever we walk upstairs). We just felt like our kids needed more freedom in this area and if they want to spend one whole day cleaning up their room to get it back in shape, that’s up to them.
  • Don’t do everything for them-My kids share the heavy load of laundry (get it?) Each weekend, they help wash, fold, dry, hang up the laundry they wore during the week. They also make their own lunches for school each day.
  • Don’t constantly bail them out-When my oldest lost her retainer (again), we asked her to explain it to the Orthodontist. And although we knew she wasn’t in a position to pay, we asked her to make our bed for eternity or until it’s payed for.
Bottom line, there are no perfect families because they are made up of imperfect people. Don’t beat yourself over the head. Learn from your mistakes and be the best parent you can be. Plus, prayer goes a a long way!
Tell me your real-life parenting tips. I could use some!
* family photos by Suzanne Box Photography


  1. 1

    Linsay says

    Can I just say that one sentence in this whole post made my day. It was the one where you said your children make their own lunches each day. I have struggled with this one for a long time, my children make their own as well. I was feeling like I was a bad parent for having them make their own when I could have been doing it for them. Just knowing that there are other parents out there that have their children do the same makes me feel so much better. And the part about the ortho, I have so been there, done that and it made me giggle! We do had my son explain to the ortho, who took pity and only charged him (us) half price for the new one. He still had to do chores to make up for it though, just for half as long!!

    Thank you for sharing your struggles it truly helps those of us who are learning this parenting thing as we go!

    God Bless

  2. 2


    Always appreciate a real-life-parenting-post…thank you :)

    Tell them when you know you’ve done something wrong…ask for their forgiveness.
    Divide vacuuming into zones and have each kiddo responsible for that area daily or however-many-times-a-week.
    If a pattern of conflict or negative interaction seems to be developing between you and a particular kiddo, make an effort to set aside some positive, relationship building time. Plant some seeds in that direction…

  3. 3

    Jacqueline Njeri says

    Am a first time visitor on your blog. I am glad I found your blog am really encouraged by your post especially the work going on at The Mercy house.
    I wanted to email you privately but I could not find your email anywhere.
    I am born again christian living in Nairobi and I wanted to volunteer some resources for the Mercy house but I don’t know how to go about it.
    Could you guide me?

  4. 4


    LOVE the family photos! Great choice of colors. The kids’ individual shots are so sweet. I like what you said about letting your kids argue as long as they are being respectful and keeping their hands to themselves. And I love the chore jar idea! Thanks for sharing!

  5. 5


    I love what you said about “objects in picture are not as perfect as they appear”. one of your pictures made me cry last week. Your husband looked so happy and you were looking at him so lovingly. I burst into tears and told my husband the kids probably would have fought all the way to getting our pictures taken, the mood would be ruined and we would never look that happy in pictures.

    • 5.2


      There is something about the stress of family photos that just makes arguments happen. Maybe its trying to get everyone dressed and looking good by a time deadline to leave for the shoot that does it. I don’t know. The last time we had our family photos done (2 years ago….ahem) my husband and I argued the entire way to Sears. The next time we have a family photo shoot, we are going to have a photographer friend do them so that things are more relaxed.

  6. 6


    I saw the chore jar idea on Pinterest and liked it. Tho, right now, household responsibilities are fun for my 3 and 4 year old so we are still using other means of consequences.

    My much learned advice: Some days are just going to fall apart. It is inevitable. So I have a weekly “plan B” on hand. Each week when I sit down to do my rough daily dockets (like the daily dockets that Tsh does, but I sit down on a Sunday evening and roughly make 7 of them…I fill them in more as the week goes on), I write on my first docket what my plan B is going to be if one of my days fall apart. The plan B includes a fast and easy dinner that has no prep work (because when you have a day that falls apart, you don’t have time to pull meat out of the freezer and thaw it) along with a couple of things that we can do as a family to feel better about the day that fell apart. ….have a carpet picnic, get a redbox movie, go to Sam’s and just stroll (my kids love this….we go and literally walk down every single aisle and look at things and just talk about what we see. I ask them questions about things we see just to get them thinking). Maybe do a simple craft as a family. Recently we went outside and collected some really pretty leaves and laminated them between two sheets of clear contact paper. We are sending those to our sponsored child in Ethiopia because we do not know if leaves change color there.

  7. 7


    I’m curious, do any of your kids share a room with their sibling? All of my kids share a room with a sibling and when the new kids get here it will be tight. I’m still mulling over the whole clean room thing since an atrocious room affects more than just the person who makes/leaves the mess. Also, what age did you start having your kids make their own lunches and do the laundry?

    • 7.2

      Karen says

      I don’t remember exactly when we started, but I am sure that my man-children were doing their laundry by age 10 and had started packing their lunches several years before that! We started chores quite early!

      Our 2 oldest shared a room for a while, but we split them up because one was a neat and tidy person and the other one wasn’t. It was a good thing for them in some ways, but I also think that there is something good about sharing a room.

    • 7.3


      My kids share a room. They are ages 3 and 4. I send them up to their room 10 minutes before bedtime (which is really time-to-get-ready-for-bed time). Their room MUST be clean before they go to sleep. It really cuts down on them wanting to play with the toys when they are supposed to be going to sleep.

      My daughter will go to Kindergarten next year and she will be helping me pack her own lunch. I figure she should have it down pat by at least. My kids help me do the laundry right now. We have a clothes hamper that we got from Walmart. It has a plastic frame and a canvas bag that hangs on the frame. The bag is separated into 3 areas. We use those areas for “big people clothes”, everyone’s underwear and socks, and then kids clothes. They have to put their own clothes in the right areas and then when it is a day of the week that I am washing either their clothes or the underwear (I do 1 load of laundry a day), they are the ones who toss the stuff into the washer and then toss the detergent cup in also. They aren’t tall enough to turn it on, so I do that. Then when things are done drying, they have to sort through the underwear/sock pile. The find their own underwear and make a pile and then pile mine and my husband’s into another pile. They find their own socks and match them up. I fold the clothing itself. I take everything upstairs, but they put their own stuff away while I watch and help them as they need it. I figure they’ll be able to do most of it on their own in a couple of years. To me, it’s a building process. They learn what they can now and then we build on that as they get older. My kids also load the dishwasher and I just found out yesterday that they can work a rake and do the leaves! (YES!!!)

  8. 8

    Carol Darden says

    I received a lot of critism from people when my elementary aged children were doing their own laundry. However, now, seeing my children function as adults in their own families, I know I did the right thing with THIS and other decisions that led them to be responsible adults. Hang in there, moms of young children, it is well worth the correcting and the punishing and the building up and the encouraging when you can stand back and be proud of the adults your children have become. You are doing a great work in the Kingdom!

  9. 9


    I love this post! My kids are the same ages as yours and we have these same issues constantly. I am definitely going to use the chore jar idea, and I also love the idea of once-a-week checks for the rooms… I tend to walk passed the room randomly and get upset that it’s not cleaned up.

    Great ideas!

  10. 10

    Heather says

    As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom I find that keeping balance is my struggle. I find ti hard to not nit-pick every little thing all day long. I’m learning, like you, that they need some of their own space (only mention cleaning their rooms once a week now when they do their other cleaning chores) and I need to let them keep it how they like (within reason). Whenever I need to discipline my girls I always take a “mommy time out” in my bathroom with my fave parenting book “Creative Correction.” I pray for God to guide me to the right scriptures to share with my girls and point me to an effective correction for the infraction.
    Also – My girls have chores. REAL chores they are required to do daily and some weekly. They feed their cats, empty the litter, sweep the basement, water my potted plants, fold their own laundry, empty the dishwasher, clean the toilets (this one is actually a favorite of theirs), clean their own bathroom (we have four – I do the other three), dust and wipe the baseboards. My girls have had chores to complete daily since they were 3 and 4. Now at 7.5 and 9 they are very responsible and what I love most is that they actually LOOK for things that need to be done and do them without being told. We operate as a family working together, not a mom servant to her children. I love that. It fosters appreciation for everyone!

  11. 11


    I don’t have any tips. We are doing most of the things you shared. Sibling bullying is a current, major problem in our house. I was in tears about it yesterday. We are hopefully on the road to improvement though. After this week 3/4 of kids will be done with sports for a month and I think that will help greatly. We’ve just been running too much, even for good things, and it is affecting all of us. So maybe that is my tip: recognize when your family is pulling apart from outside commitments and embrace saying no.

  12. 12


    “Objects in Picture Aren’t As Happy as They Appear” – It made my Monday morning to read that line! As parents we will never be perfect, but we can always look for ways to improve. My kids are older now (13, 17), but for many years they have been responsible for their own lunches and their own laundry! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  13. 14

    Karen says

    Loved this post! We made a conscious decision early on to raise men not boys and that has affected our parenting decisions….from household chores… attitudes! We were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but our “men” (now 23,20 and 17) appear to have learned a lot and are responsible members of society! :-)

    my hubby blogs about it at

    (Today’s post is one of my favorites!)

  14. 15


    I love all of these – we’re looking for some tips to get us though a small rough spell we’re having. I don’t agree with a chore jar because I don’t want my children to look at the chores around the house as anything but responsibility – meaning I don’t want them to eventually dispise chores like my older brother finally did (boy you should see his apartment now) but I absoluty love and agree with the idea of writing scripture and I think this might be out answer. Thanks for this blogpost!

    • 15.1


      I do a chore jar but I do it a bit differently. My daughter has three jars with ping-pong balls. One is Daily Chores, one is Done and one is Extra Chores. She does a Daily Chore(Ex. Make Bed) and when that task is complete she moves the pink-pong ball with said chore on it to the Done jar. This works for us because it lets her “see” what she is accomplishing. The Extra Chores box only has 3 pp balls in it and it is chores that if she “needs” something to do (I’ve never had to use them)…(from your post you may not use that one)…but the moving the ppballs from one jar to the other seems to work for us. I wrote about it in my blog:

  15. 16


    We had a chore bowl! It was for those chores that happen infrequently like sweeping out the basement or garage or cleaning out the fireplace (wood ashes). It totally worked for us and we never got “bored” again!

  16. 17

    Elizabeth says

    The part about your daughter having to “pay” for her retainer made me smile. When I was in middle school, I too lost my retainer–twice!! And so I had to do laundry for our family of 7 until I paid for it. I got 50 cents for every load I put in the washer, 50 cents for the dryer and 50 cents for folding. I did laundry every day for a LONG time and amazingly, it is still my favorite chore years later. And I learned my lesson well about having to be responsible for my things.

  17. 18


    Hi Kristen,
    I enjoy reading your posts, even though my son is grown and the father of two. I think your parenting tips are great with one exception. I once saw Grandma Walton punish one of the girls by making her write Scripture. I told my husband I thought that was a bad idea, because the Scripture is God’s love letter to us and should not be associated with punishment. As for my own tips, I’d say pick your battles – let the kids win once in a while. Keep up the good work.

  18. 19

    Kimberly says

    jotting all these notes down for the futre! well some definitely can apply now, small children are more capable than what we think! and LOVE the family pictures. y’all are beautiful inside and out!

  19. 20


    Hi Kristen. I’m back to link up my “Life as a Gift” post on WFMW.

    Your kids are lovely, but as you’ve detailedly written here, their behavior isn’t ALWAYS lovely. My 2 kids are just the same. Only yesterday, we ordered chicken for afternoon snacks, but instead of having fun, they fought and hurt each other. I was so flustered in frustration! My daughter is almost 7 years older so she’s the one I really discuss with about these problems, and of course, I offer tons of prayers for them.

    Have a blessed week,

  20. 22


    For us the key is keeping them busy. We have 3 girls (drama!) and they will argue and get whiny when they are bored. I try to do lots of fun activities and crafts with them. We also try to do at least one outing a day (grocery shopping, library, etc… and just the change of scenery helps.
    Vicky from

  21. 24

    Jenna says

    When I read “B doesn’t happen before A,” it reminded me of something I learned at a workshop on cooperative discipline when I was teaching. The presenter called it “Grandma’s Rule” — Once you finish your work, you can play. It was very effective to use this “rule” when I was teaching. I’d tell the kids that if we were able to get through everything we needed to do (learning), then they’d be able to have some free time in the classroom to do what they wanted (play!). It was very motivating to the kids and it really helped to minimize disruptions because the kids wanted to get through all of the material so they could play.

  22. 26

    Emily Johnson says

    I love this Kristen! Thanks for the reminder that there are no perfect families. We are praying for wisdom in our parenting and we’re having a hard time finding what works and with being consistent! Parenting is fun and I love it, but it’s also so hard sometimes! I’m thankful for grace.

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