Outings are fun. Suspend routine and monotony and get out the front door. Enjoy a sunny day, family time, eat out.

“Easily said”, I hear you sigh. I appreciate that often the reality may feel more like an afternoon herding sheep rather than the delightful image of a happy family strolling in the park. But don’t give up. And don’t let the sheep take over.

Firstly, clear limits and family hierarchy are the basis for children to understand that mum and dad or Nanny V is in charge.

Being authoritarian does not mean you need to be dictatorial (well, not unless in times of danger or tantrums). A tyrant rules with fear. An effective chief employs open communication, a plan and a sense of fun, and humour always helps.

Involve your little ones in the preparation. Maybe give them a choice of a bike ride or playground, a picnic or a family restaurant, the library or a movie. Keep it simple. Then set the ground rules and ensure everyone is aware of the boundaries and consequences if breached.

“A picnic is still a meal and I expect you to remain seated while eating just like at the table at home”. “When we are all finished you can run around while I pack up”. It’s an opportune time to engage them to work out what to do next or simply talk and tell stories. Play a game of “I Spy”. Children love silliness and are more relaxed with laughter.

Although subtle, there is still structure which helps them learn self-control, and ultimately, independence.

A consistent philosophy of discipline is the healthiest lesson you can teach. And with love they’ll feel safe and happier.

Just because they are children, and otherwise healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than pleasant and respectable behaviour. If erratic, deal with it as soon as you can and definitively. Even when there are tears (both yours and theirs) make sure you follow through.

It does get easier. I promise. Just put in the time and energy and when you need to plaster a smile on your face, do it.


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