Quality time is part of the family rules
Heidi Hess Saxton/Contributor
So when one family in the hot-seat had a four-year-old whose normal tone of voice was a cross between a fire siren and a fog horn, I sat up and took note. Imagine my shock when Nanny Stella gave Mom what-for (Craig and I thought the dad was going to get it, but she surprised us). "The child wouldn't yell so much," Nanny lectured, "if she felt someone was listening to her."
As Nanny directed, I dutifully printed up our "house rules," and let the kids decorate the posters with glitter pens. So far, so good. The rules read, in part:
1. Show respect. Hitting and name-calling are not respectful.
2. Speak, don't shriek.
3. Don't whine, or Mom can't hear you.
4. No TV until all homework is done and your rooms are clean.
5. Clean up after yourself. Yes, that means you.
6. Infractions will result in time-out on the stairs.
It was the last rule, though, that Nanny promised we would appreciate the most:
7. Thirty minutes of family time every single day.
Since Dad frequently does not come home for dinner because of his work schedule, this requires a little creativity. Breakfast "together time," for example. And to my great surprise (I am not and have never been a morning person), it really does help the day get off to a good start. No more whining. No more screaming. Just sweet and heavenly peace.
After a few weeks of "family breakfast," I confess we slipped back into old habits and had to look for alternate ideas. Bedtime sometimes gets pushed back a bit, so we can get in that all-important storytime between Daddy and Sarah.
Sometimes, "quality time" means Mom and the kids because Dad just can't be there. (In this economy, it's becoming a familiar story - one person holding down the job of two or more.) Sometimes we visit Dad at work with a pizza. Other times we wish together he were there so much we "phone in" our good-nights, just as we do when he's traveling.
Thirty minutes. Every day. No excuses. Because the family rules.
What are your most important family rules?
Heidi Hess Saxton is an AnnArbor.com contributor to the "Parenting" channel, and the creator of the Extraordinary Moms Network, an online resource for parents of adoptive, foster, and special-needs children. You can reach Heidi here.