Q: I have one boy and one girl that I often bathe together to speed up bath time. At what age should siblings stop bathing together?
A: It's really a personal parenting choice, but as soon as one of the kids expresses any hints that they are no longer comfortable, bathing together should stop. Often older siblings don't mind helping bathe younger siblings; particularly if they are the same gender. The preschool or early school-age years are often when many parents stop bathing kids together because their natural curiosity begins to kick in. Bath time can be a great tool for teaching kids that their bodies are special and only to be touched with their permission.
Q: My husband is such a picky eater. I plan out our meals in advance and do most of the cooking on the weekends, but when Wednesday comes along and I pull out chicken, my husband announces he wants steak. What can I do?
A: Getting your husband involved in the meal-planning process may help this situation. Let him know your weekly plan in advance and ask him for his input. Explain that preparing meals in advance allows you precious time with your family that you wouldn't otherwise have. You could also give him the responsibility of choosing the nightly meal from the already-prepared selections — that way, he can decide what's for dinner, within reason. Then again, you can always remind him that he's welcome to do the cooking!
Q: I have the kids on a great after-school schedule, but when my husband pops home from work early, the schedule goes down the drain. How can I get my husband to understand that we need to follow the schedule in order to get everything done?
A: Over a nice cup of cocoa after the kids go to bed, have a little chat with your husband. Give him kudos for being an awesome and involved dad, and then share with him all the things that need to get accomplished between the time the kids return from school and bedtime. Let him know that you've tried other ways, but the most effective way has been to adhere to a structured afternoon and evening schedule. Ask him to support you in implementing the schedule, and offer ways he can help keep things on track when he comes home early.
Q: At what age is it realistic to expect a child to pitch in and help out around the house?
A: Even from an early age, all kids can help out in some capacity. Even a toddler can help pick up her toys and put them in a basket. A two- to three-year-old can make her bed (if she has an easy-to-use, lightweight comforter), put her clothes in the hamper and put her toys away. A preschool-age child can help put away the groceries, sort the laundry and even with some of the cooking if he is closely supervised. Six- to eight-year-olds can fold and put away laundry and take out the trash.
Q: How much homework should my second-grader have? It seems like we set aside a few hours each night, and he still doesn't get all his work done.
A: A reasonable guideline for the amount of time a child should spend on homework is 10 minutes per night, per grade level. Therefore, your first-grader should have 10 minutes of homework, your third-grader 30 minutes and your seventh-grader 70 minutes. If you find your child is not able to complete his homework within the appropriate amount of time, speak with your child's teacher and let her know. Be sure that you have a clear understanding of what the teacher expects, as well as any classroom-specific homework guidelines.
Q: My home is too big to clean in one attempt. What is the best way to keep up with the mess?
A: Breaking the whole into manageable parts will help you better keep up with the cleaning. First, be sure that all family members (except the little, little ones) are keeping their bedrooms clean and tidy. It should be their responsibility to make their beds, utilize their hamper and empty their trash. Assign a day of the week to a specific task, such as mopping on Mondays and dusting on Tuesdays, or to a specific area, such as bedrooms or living areas. Deep-clean the bathrooms and kitchen weekly, and wipe down the countertops on a daily basis.
Q: We have four kids. How can incorporate one-an-one time with each child during our bedtime routine?
A: You could have the children rest in their beds and wait as you make the rounds, reading a short bedtime story to each one. Staggering bedtimes and tucking in one child at a time is another way to sneak in a few mommy moments. You could also have a short time of prayer with each child before getting all the kids together for their nightly devotional. Also, let your husband tuck in your sons one night, while you tuck in your daughters. Then switch it up so that each child gets some personal attention from both of you.