As I toted nine children along to the store or some activity, notoriously I would always get this question: Are those all your children? I would answer back with an enthusiastic “YES” and then go on to explain how they were from one husband and no twins. That really got their curiosity up. I know what they were thinking: “Why in the world would anyone have nine children on purpose?” Then the next thing they would say was: “I have___ (insert number less than 4) children and I don’t know how you do it.”
I would laugh to myself and try to come up with a snappy answer but after a while, I got tired of the snappy answers and just said: “I pray a lot”. This got me thinking about how larger families (and even smaller families) handle the day to day activity of their lifestyle without losing their minds. There are a few “tricks of the trade” which I have discovered along the way which can help.
1. Pray and Read together: This is the number one most important activity you can do with your family. Whether at night or in the morning, whatever works for your family, do it. Praying and reading scripture verses together gives everyone incredible strength to carry on. You won’t be without problems, but when conflict does arise, attitudes are different. There is a calmness and strength over the home which helps each member of the family.
A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church’s leadership, Henry B. Eyring, says this about family prayer: “Parents should teach their children to pray. The child learns both from what the parents do and what they say. The child who sees a mother or a father pass through the trials of life with fervent prayer to God and then hears a sincere testimony that God answered in kindness will remember what he or she saw and heard. When trials come, that individual will be prepared.”
There is something about prayer and reading verses of scripture together that helps a family. It’s difficult to understand how it works but know that it has worked when we were actively praying and reading and is a testimony to me to keep doing it.
2. Talk together a lot: It is amazing how many families don’t do this especially with the onset of the internet, video games and tweeting. Somehow talking together gets pushed aside or children are too enthralled by what they are playing to really have any conversation. Talking at night is
a great way to find out what happens at school instead of right after they get home. Teens are more open at night and their guard is down. Talking in the car also is a great time to get the communication going. Children are in a confined area and have no way to get out. Turn off the electronics and just start talking.
3. Let all children participate in chores: I know sometimes this can be harder on the parents than on the children at first, but if you start from the beginning at an appropriate age for chores, then this becomes a habit and one that children will appreciate eventually. I have had numerous conversations with adults remembering when they were young with grandparents or parents doing some kind of chore together. Standing on a chair to wash dishes, folding laundry or pumping a well for water might have been mundane chores at the time but as adults those became cherished memories. Do yourself and favor and set up a chore chart or a time when everyone shares in the cleaning of the place where they live. Even if you have a housekeeper, children still need to know how to take responsibility for their own room and belongings.
4. Schedule Weekly Activities on Paper: This is one of the best things we ever did with our children. Each week when we sat together, we wrote the days of the week and added what we were doing on one single page and hung it up on the refrigerator. Piano recitals, sports games, school meetings, church activities, doctor’s appointments or whatever we were doing for that week was written under that day so we can check periodically what we were doing. With so many children going in so many directions, it was such a time savor and benefit to keep straight who was going where. If anyone had a change or update, we could add to our weekly calendar.
Now my children are raising their own children and have the tools necessary to be successful in their own life and these good habits will be passed down through the generations.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.