A Little Golden Book
And are you being asked to tame the lions, especially around dinner time?
Do you feel a bit anxious as the dinner hour approaches? If your kids are roaming the kitchen eyeing you suspiciously as they growl for their supper and your partner is demonstrating an overly aggressive mood as he encircles the stove, your private three ring circus may be about to erupt.
Do you find yourself fighting off the neighbors, alerting them to the fact that it's time to return to their own den for feeding? Or are you struggling to express dominance while trying to tame the hungry cubs who threaten to take down their next meal ? Are your 4 legged stool and whip no longer effective in taming the hungry masses?
In order to not only survive, but to control your home grown circus, there are a few things that you need to consider:
Recognize that you are in control
Yes, that's right. You are in control of your territory and it's time to follow your instincts and to contain, master and organize your kitchen by exercising your leadership skills. Get ready to put on your top hat and circus boots!
Establish your priorities
What is it that you really want to happen as you approach the dinner hour? Do you want the menagerie to go to their cages; some to demonstrate their talents, while others slink away? In other words, do you want your family members to go to their rooms, help you cook, or do their homework, fold laundry or set the table while you are cooking their meal? If you are not sure what it is that you actually want to happen, you may be stepping into the lion's cage on a daily basis. Think it through as you plan out your week. Kids thrive on organization and chaos lessens when you fulfill your role as the recognized Ring Master.
Ferocious appetites might need consideration
You know your kids better than anyone. If you know that soccer practice or later afternoon study sessions have spurred their appetites, have carrots and celery or fruit cut up and ready for a quick, healthy snack. This should fend off their appetites and avoid some of the nasty behaviors that occur when kids are really hungry. Stay away from sugary treats which may wind your kids up and cause their "claws" to come out.
Help your kids to locate their "stool" and their task
Set up a schedule that allows your kids to know where you expect them to be and when. If you have decided that you want your kids to work on their homework quietly in their rooms as you prepare dinner, tell them. If you are expecting them to perform, i.e. practice their musical instrument or read to you for twenty minutes as you work, they need to know this and be ready to demonstrate their skills. Remind them that roaming the linoleum floors in search of their next meal will not make it appear any sooner.
Replace your imaginary whip with clear instructions
Calm, clear instructions work better than threats or physical reactions. Take the time to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them and have the necessary training. Then give kudos when they do what you've asked them to do. This can be a valuable teaching/training moment. Posting duties on a calendar, in a clearly visible spot, will help to avoid confusion over who is to do what and when.
Condition your kids to respond to your commands
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Directions should only have to be given once with kudos or consequences immediately following, in order to teach a child that they are a member of your team with clearly defined responsibilities. But remember that I said "should"; it may take a few tries before your younger kids really get into the swing of things within your tent. You may need to result to using humor at times to actually motivate your kids so don't be afraid to strap on your circus clown shoes to lighten the atmosphere up a bit.
Have the courage to say, "NO!"
Be the best "tamer" you can be by knowing when to say "No" to your kids. No more friends, no more noise, no more excuses, no more growling or snarling. You are all part of the same troupe and as such need to work together to create a calm and inviting evening environment.
The best Lion Tamers recognize that in order to be successful they must be calm - yet assertive, well organized, good communicators who can think on their feet and, of course, brave. Is there a better description out there for a parent? I think not.
No need to put your head into the lion's mouth to prove what a great circus hero you can be. Just take the necessary steps to get your circus tent under control and you'll find your own lions, tigers, jugglers and tightrope walkers have all calmed and your dinner time will be a much more enjoyable experience for all.