Sometimes parents just keep trying the same things over and over, and they don't work. Some families keep the same habits, never stopping to look if they're being successful. A great parenting tip is to STOP! LOOK! And LISTEN!


We can stop what we're doing when something isn't working well. Just take a pause in your life and ask, "Is this a problem?"

Then,LOOK. Look around you. Look within your family. Diagnose the problem and start looking around you - to other families, books, wise grandparents - for solutions.

Finally,LISTEN. Sometimes problem-solving in a family can be as easy as just listening. Listen to your children as they voice their concerns. Listen to your spouse as he offers ideas. Listen to other parents and smart people around you.

Applying problem-solving to parenting can be a great blessing. It's like taking the time to stop and shake out the sand from your shoe. Walking becomes a lot more comfortable.

Here are some solutions to a few problems that often creep up in a family setting.

Setting the table

We came up with a fast and creative method for getting this done. Each child has a number. Each number has an assignment: Number 1 sets the plates, Number 2 sets the cups, Number 3 sets the silverware, and Number 4 sets the milk, dressing and pepper.

When we say, "Set the table," all the kids run in. It's done in a minute. No arguing. Amazing. The number assignments rotate monthly.

If you have more kids than this, you can add items or assign items to clear from the table.

Seating arrangements

Isn't this a familiar fight? "I want to sit by the window!" "Jerry got to sit in the front last time." "I want to sit by Mommy!" Oh yes, this battle could go on for years. Let's nip this one in the bud immediately.

Back to the numbers. Ah, those lovely numbers. Each of the kids gets a number each month as mentioned above. It can be used in seating like this:

At the dining table

Mom and Dad always sit together in the same place. Dad at the head of the table, Mom to his left. (It sends a great message having Daddy at the head of the table.) Number 1 sits next to Dad, Number 2 sits next to him, Number 3 sits around the corner, and Number 4 sits next to Mom. On the first of the month, all the kids rotate. It's also a great way to mix it up at the table and talk to different kids.

In the car

This is often a source of family fights. Windows and front seats - we all know these constitute premium seating. So here's how it works.

The passenger seat next to Mom (who is permanently glued to her driver's seat in the car) is called shotgun. If the child is under 12, she DOES NOT EVER sit in the front. Sitting shotgun is based on months. Each child over the age of 12 is assigned months. (For example, Parker sat there on the even months, and Brennan sat there on the odd months.) This is because Mom is often in the shotgun seat when the family is going on an outing, so the rotation of the shotgun seat is a bit different.

In the next row, seat one is directly behind the driver. Seat two is behind shotgun. If you have a third row of seats, seat three is behind two and four is behind one. So, they rotate in a circle - got it? It doesn't matter how you number them, just assign the numbers and go from there.

Seating assignments are strictly enforced. Many a child has been left at home because they would not sit where they were assigned.

Seating assignments rotate monthly.

Sunday showers

It's always thrilling to get the entire family showered and dressed and ready for church. Voila! Here is a solution: Number 1 child has to (or gets to) shower first, Number 2 next, and so forth. No more arguing who has to start.

The numbering system is eminently fair, provides monthly variety, and is a piece of cake to track. The kids keep track of who is what number, so they pretty much enforce things themselves.


Emptying the dreaded dishwasher is also one of those bicker-points in a family. We simply have a daily schedule with a family member assigned for each day (or two, depending on the size of the family)

I don't put Daddy on the list. That's because he is usually the Dinner Clean-up Coordinator. The rule in our home is whoever cooks does not have to clean-up. If I cook dinner, Dad supervises clean-up. If he cooks, I supervise clean-up. Every child clears his own dishes and three other items. So snap, snap and it's done. I always dreaded being stuck with dishes. I would watch the entire family leave when I was a kid, so we've done it differently. It's very fast. Plus, we all work together which I like much better.

Whenever you have an area that's causing contention in the home, try looking at it using problem-solving. You can come up with a method that can solve it in a fair, reliable and consistent fashion. Don't be afraid to change or adjust the method until you find one that fits.

It is amazing how many fights you can eliminate if you have a framework in which the kids can function. As you go about solving all those hot-points, the family life begins to flow much more easily. Kids are sticklers for fairness. Once they are satisfied that this is being met, they are usually quite cooperative. If they don't like it, ask them what method they would use. You might be surprised at their suggestions.

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