What can I have for a snack? What time are we leaving? Can I get on the computer? Can I play outside? It is estimated that we make about 4,800 decisions per day. In addition, when you are parenting, you’re not only making decisions for yourself but for all the little people in your life, too! Making as many decisions as you can AHEAD of time can reduce the brain-load and ease the stress that comes from constant decision making. Read on to find out just how much you can decide ahead of time.
I get tired just thinking about the bombardment of questions and the decisions that must be made in reply. Sometimes I just stare back at my kids in a brain lock up! Obviously, the more children you have (I have 4), the more decisions you are called upon to make each day. I have found that having some plans (ie, decisions made in advance) and boundaries in place eliminates many decisions each day.
One of the biggies for me personally is the kitchen. Our oldest daughter has grown a full inch in just under 2 months. She is hungry! “What can I have to eat?” is a question I hear in my sleep, it is asked of me so many times a day. A couple food strategies to reduce that question:
If your children are old enough, fill a snack box with things they can eat and then make some guidelines about when and how much they can eat. Our box has trailmix, granola bars, popcorn and the like in it. A similar spot in the fridge can have carrots, sugar snap peas, cheese sticks, and yogurt available. Between meals, allow them to get a snack or two from the box with just a “May I have a snack now, Mom?” which becomes a simpler yes or no question for you. Wave your hand at “What can I have?” and send them to find out what’s available. You could reduce it further and decide exactly when snacks are allowed. (I’m just not there yet!)
I have to be honest, when meals are planned, life is smoooooth sailing. If 5pm arrives and the pantry is just blankly staring back at me, life is hard work. There are SO many great tools available for meal planning now-a-days, we almost have no excuse! I have created many of my own (as we have had at least 1 child Gluten Free for the last 6 years), but now I use AllRecipes.com to assist me. I have friends that also use emeals.com and plantoeat.com. It doesn’t matter what you use, just that you make a plan. Even 7-10 enjoyable meals on rotation for a while is helpful. Shopping in a timely manner is the other key to that system, because a menu with no groceries is of course, utterly useless.
If you struggle with food at all or are trying to reform any family food habits, making a few guidelines can be helpful. We decided a few years ago to only get juice that is actually juice. At my grocery store that only leaves 2 or 3 options. I pick the one that’s on sale within those options. Decisions reduced. We also eventually eliminated artificial coloring. I don’t have to decide. We decided as a family. The chocolate aisle, however, still provides a grand struggle!
Do you have a budget? How many times can you afford to eat out based on your budget? We have to decide if we want one big Chinese meal or a couple boxes of pizza. That’s the budget we’re working from right now. So, “eat out” or “not eat out” isn’t a frequent decision to be made.
After a week-long media fast, we put some media guidelines in place. I realized after the fact, how this has freed up this area of decision making! There used to be incessant questions about TV, Wii, and computer use. Now, there are pre-requisites to media time and everyone already knows what they are. If you are interested in our guidelines you can view them here– just remember, they are not rules- they are just our guidelines for this present season.
You know your family. What questions are you regularly asked? Can I have a friend over? Can we go to _________ for awhile?!?! If your schedule is fairly busy- practices, games, and church- look at the regular schedule and decide when certain activities are even a possibility. If Thursday afternoon is the ONLY day your children could have a playdate without causing stress and strain, then decide that ahead of time. Mark it on the calendar even. Let them call early in the week. Then, when they ask, remind them that Thursday is the day. No need to keep asking.
I wish these ideas would slow the questions instantly, but alas, there will always be more! The goal is just a little stress reduction and common sense management. I hope that your family will be able to make some decisions together at a family meeting about your use of food, media, and scheduling that will reduce the questions and increase the security.