Ever watch a teacher and wonder how they manage thirty kids all day while you can barely keep your two out of trouble for twenty minutes? Here are a few tips, straight from the experts.

  • Voice down, not up. If you have something to say and you need your kids to settle and listen, lower your voice. Whisper, even. It attracts attention even from kids who have learned to tune out shouting. Couple the whisper with a silly instruction, like ‘If you can hear me, stick out your tongue,’ and they’ll be quiet and on your frequency in no time.
  • Space to complain. Kids don’t want to empty the dishwasher and have a really good reason why they shouldn’t have to? Give them a timer, and let them air their grievances until it bings. Then they have to do it anyway, but make sure they feel listened to.
  • Feel like your kid’s education melts away during the summer? Keep them writing. Be a secret or not-so-secret pen pal through the summer, trading short letters every few days. As long as they’re writing, they’re keeping up their most important school skill.
  • Spot-inspections can help keep kids on track with their chores, too. Invent the Tidy-Fairy who will occasionally visit clean rooms and made beds, leaving stickers or tiny prizes. Remember, the Tidy-Fairy only rewards, never punishes, but she doesn’t call ahead either, so prize seekers have to be at their best all the time.
  • Kids way too active for evening? Long day? Encourage a fun slow-down by eating dinner by candle-light, or out in the yard by lantern-light.
  • Children and teens are all less likely to complain if they feel a part of the decision committee, so whenever possible, offer them choices where any choice is acceptable to you. Cereal or breakfast smoothies? Beach or park? Just watch out for indecision making you all late.