The biggest question I get from my friends is “How do you do it? How do you go places with that many little kids?” To be honest the hardest part is overcoming your own negative voice. I decided to write down the 6 easy steps I walk myself through to get out with my kids. This is how I approach it, even on a difficult day.
1. Don’t Listen to the Negative Voice in your Head
I read a book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life, a few months ago that talked about how there are two different mindsets when you approach a situation. You can either be in a “Learner Mindset” or a “Judger Mindset” (Here’s a link to the “choice map”) When you are in Learning mode you are asking questions “What can I do?, What are my choices?, What can I learn? What are they thinking? How do they feel?” The Judger mindset is asking “Whose fault is it? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them? Why am I so dumb? Incapable? Worthless?
I realized that the days that I am getting out and doing fun things I’m in my best problem solving mind set. As soon as a problem presents itself, I’m immediately thinking of solutions. But, I also have my days when I think “I can’t do this! My kids are being horrible, they aren’t listening, they are being mean! I’m too tired, I’m a horrible parent, It’s not worth it!”
Thankfully, I’m now more aware of my mindset as soon as I get into that “judger” mindset and I try my best to switch out of it. I have a choice! I can choose to be happy and make the best of it. I can only be the best mom when I’m in problem solving mode! I’m always amazed at how quickly I can shift my mindset. As a Christian I think of it as the devil whispering all of those negative thoughts and then I realize that I don’t want to listen to that! Make that choice to stop listening to the negative thoughts!
2. Get in the Car
Seriously! Even if you don’t have any idea where you are going just get in the car. That’s half the battle. Throw out a few options to the kids (park, library, beach, mountains) or just decide if they are fighting over it. Quickly, run back in the house if you need something for it (ex. towels & swim suits for the pool, snacks etc.).
I’m not above bribery. “If we can go to the park without any fighting and you guys are good listeners you can have some Swedish fish.” True confession! I keep the mega size Swedish Fish 3.5-Pound Bag in my center console of my car. It comes in handy in all sorts of situations Examples: if you get out of the pool now I’ll let you have a Swedish fish, if you climb in the car now without complaining you can get 2 Swedish fish, or my favorite is just randomly rewarding my kids with them for just being extra kind or obedient. It keeps them on their toes and they never know when they will be rewarded.
4. Threats/Warnings of Danger
Give them a rundown in the car of any problems that might arise and how they can prevent that (fall off a cliff, drown in the pool, get lost etc.) I find that they are much more obedient when they understand there is a risk. This may seem silly but any time we go somewhere I have this exact talk before we get out of the car.
Me: “Okay, kids! This is a very busy place. If Zoe runs that way, Clark runs that way, Jack runs that way, and Chadburn runs that way… Who am I going to run after?”
Boys in Unison: “Zoe!”
Me: That’s right… and who will be lost?
Boys in Unison: “Us!”
I’ve only had 2 times that I’ve “lost” a kid and each time it was my son Jack. Shocker! I know that’s his personality so I always keep a closer eye on him than my other kids.
5. Call a Friend!
Don’t think it’s too late to invite a friend! I find that last minute invites work better in my schedule than trying to plan things in advance. Invite me and if I can I will totally slip it in. My kids play so much better when there are other kids around so it’s totally worth an outing. Going places are so much easier with a second adult. You can totally divide and conquer “I’ll take these two to the bathroom while you watch the others on the playground.” Having an extra set of hands or eyes can make a fun outing a lot less stressful.
6. Have Fun!
You did it! You got out when you didn’t want to or just didn’t feel like it. I’ve found that my kids are always happier once we are out than if we stayed home. Take a moment to enjoy those little moments of joy. Look for the good in it (Learner mindset), What did I do right? How could I make this better next time? That way you’ll go home and think that was totally worth it! The next time it will be so much easier. As soon as your negative internal voice sets in (Judger mindset) fight to get back to those more positive “What can I learn from this” questions. To be honest my number one response to that question is “Next time I need to bring snacks.” So, bring snacks and Have fun!
I took this picture as evidence the first time I took 4 kids to the Ocean by myself. Zoe was 4 months old and I had her in the Beco Baby Carrier the whole time. The kids were so happy and so was I. It was exactly what all of us needed. I’m an extrovert and I think that being outside in nature is even more energizing than being with friends.
Does anyone else have something that works for them? Let me know I’m always looking for better ways.