Setting the Tone of Your Home

Our home is a busy place.

It's noisy and bustling, sometimes dirty, always lived-in.

It's not cold, chaotic or controlled.

It's warm and welcoming and imperfect.

My hubby and I work very hard to set the tone of our home. We have made conscious choices to create a healthy atmosphere for our family.

The other night before bed, we were reading Moments With You: Daily Connections for Couples together. In it, Donna Otto, founder of Homemakers by Choice, writes, "parents are not called to be the thermometers in the home, but the thermostats...Thermostats don't just read the temperature, they guide. They determine how warm or cool the home environment will be."

It's so true! We've found when there is tension in our marriage or when we are grumpy and discontent, so are our children. They are taking their cues from us.

We want our home to have purpose and direction. It has been  six months since we took back control of the time we spent in our home. I was stressed about our hectic after-school schedule and TV and video games ruled our home

I cannot tell you how much the tone has changed! The temperature is just right (disclaimer: we do have a 2 year old, so please take that into account).

How we changed the tone of our home:
  • Minimized TV and video games-We cut off the Cable (in the Family Room. Hubby and I still have basic cable in our bedroom) and we limit ALL screen time (TV, Wii, DS, etc.) to 30 minutes a day during the week. This was tough for my kids at first. But they acclimatized to the temperature after awhile and we have seen a complete turn around in their attitudes and even desire to watch TV.
  • Significantly reduced extracurricular activities-My kids are involved in Boy/Girl Scouts monthly and that's it! We don't do any sports or lessons, at all! I'm not opposed to these, but for us, it was just too much. Not only was it very expensive, we were constantly rushing from one activity to another after school. We reserve sports for the summer, where my kids can 'try out' a sport for six weeks through the YMCA. Around here, we are definitely in the minority since my kids haven't found their sport (with private lessons), but they are 9 and nearly 7. The have plenty of time to pursue sports they really love in junior high and high school.
  • Family meals-We eat approximately six nights a week around our table, together. We cook and clean and talk, together. I love this time. A couple of nights a week, we use some conversation starters to make sure we're communicating with our kids about issues they may be having (Here's a great Character Building book)
  • Utilize our time-Without the distractions of TV and activities, we have a lot of time on our hands. We spend much of it in our backyard, in our new garden, riding bikes, and taking walks.  Baking and crafting have become family affairs. We love family movie night with popcorn and blankets. Without the expense of extracurricular activities, we set money aside to have special family nights at my kid's favorite spots, monthly.
  • Using a Family calendar-We have a family calendar displayed in a central location. We keep track of our schedule as a whole and we pencil in family nights. This has really helped to alleviate confusion and prevented cramming too much into our schedules. When I see the calendar begin to fill up, I know when we need to say yes or no. A crazy schedule leads to chaos for our family!
  • Encouraging reading-My kids love to read. I love seeing them read. I secretly love catching them reading after hours under their covers with a flashlight. During this time of limited TV, I have seen an amazing love of books come alive in my kids. I'm going to be sharing more about this one in the next few weeks.
  • Enforcing a bedtime routine-One or both of us pray with our kids at bedtime. We snuggle and talk and whisper. We are also consistent with bedtime on weeknights.
  • Flexibility- All of these guidelines just become rules if we don't have flexibility. We don't want our home to be controlled and we don't want to stifle our children's energy. Everything we do is coupled with a spirit of flexibility. My kids have brightened at unplanned spontaneity and blossomed when we gave them a chance to voice their opinions.
We are not perfect and sometimes even our best laid plans go array. In those moments of chaos, I take a deep breath, think through how we got to that place and try to adjust the temperature in our home.

Because sometimes it's too hot, other times it's too cold. And every once in awhile, it's just right.


Muthering Heights said...

These are great boundaries...and I like that bit about being the thermostat, not the thermometer. :)

Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Oh my goodness...I am in your mind or you are in mine. Yes, yes, and yes...we are creating the haven. And it doesn't just happen...it's all about intentionality. wonderful post. :)

Ann Kroeker said...

My forthcoming book is about slowing down, and many of the points you have highlighted are the kinds of categories I encourage families to examine and consider overhauling.

We have to counter the culture if we want to live these simpler lives. It sounds like you are doing it very well. Way to set the temperature. Great post. Very inspiring.

Natalie said...

My mom and I call this "intentional parenting," and it's what I aspire to each and every day. I don't always hit the mark, but I'm a whole lot closer than I'd be if I were not aiming for it.

I completely agree that parents set the tone and guide the family. Sounds like you've made lots of little changes that add up to a whole new atmosphere.

Lettie said...

What a great post! Thank you. Sometimes I think I let things run a little to wild around here.

Anonymous said...

Did you know an indicator of how UNlikely your children will use alcohol and other drugs....how often you eat dinner TOGETHER? I recently when to a program at our local HS-- and was amazed that the really simple things had the greatest impact! Kudos for making time to gather around the dinner table (or breakfast table, for some families). It will pay great dividends in the future

Quadelle said...

Brilliant guidelines. Sounds like you've got the thermostat set just right.

Jessica said...

Great post!!! It is so great to have household guidlines band not rules. I love sitting down and having dinner as a family, it really keeps you connected!

Kathryn said...

It feels funny saying this at the end of a blog about cutting back & focusing on family: I appreciate you so much, & have enjoyed following your blog. I've just tagged you at my blog for an 8 Meme. I'd like to get to know you better! If you did this before i missed it. http://kateekat.blogspot.com/

I know you've a lot of people following you & that you're a very busy mama, but i did want to add you to this meme.

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Bravo, Kristen!


JanMary said...

"parents are not called to be the thermometers in the home, but the thermostats..."

I love that!

We share some of the same boundaries and routines, but there are others you do I would like to add.

Pepper said...

We are getting rid of our cable and hooking up our TVs to the internet so we can become more selective on what we watch and save money.

At first I was hesitant but as I thought about it I have liked the idea. It's one way to wean myself off the TV and be more selective about what I watch.

Monica@DailyDwelling said...

Great post! I agree with all of the guidelines you use in your family. It is so true that we are the thermostat and not the thermometer in our homes. It is up to us to set the tone and guide our little ones in life.

Shannon said...

Yeah for you! We have pretty much the same rules. The only one who plays sports is the high schooler the rest are stuck with scouting.

One added guideline for us (since we live overseas) is we don't take a trip every single time the kids have a long weekend. Sometimes it feels as if the community we live is is running a contest to see who can go to the most countries in the least amount of time. I am grateful for the chance to live in Europe but I don't feel the need to see all of it in the two short years we will be here. To even try would leave us frazzled not to mention bankrupt.

The Mommy said...

Your "schedule" is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing this.

~*Michelle*~ said...

LOVE the thermostat reference...wow. good stuff!

Setting boundaries and guidelines is so wise in keeping a nice balance in the home. We limit TV and computer time....and I am always keeping everyone outside, especially since the beautiful weather is finally coming!

And I am a firm believer with keeping things at a nice healthy pace when it comes to how we spend our time (in regards to activities, running around, etc). Most of the time, "less is more"

Have a great week!

Reflections in My Mirror said...

We have better nights when we have NO or limited TV! We eat together - even if Daddy is working and it is a sandwich! I am getting better about consistant bedtimes - even though my 4 yr old gets up every five minutes for an hour. We put her right back to bed - until she is asleep. This post sounds like a WFMW post - girl you should have double dipped!!
Amy Q

Jeremiah said...

This is such great advice. In this day and age you need to do everything you can to bring your family closer together. Thanks for the wonderful advice.

suburbanmom said...

Simplify. Purposeful. Love it!

Jennifer said...

Our daughter is 4, and we have already decided that we will not be the typical family that runs kids every direction every night of the week. We value our time together at home too much to let this happen. We've decided that our daughter can participate in one activity at a time. Overall she is a calm, confident child. We believe that part of the reason for that is that she has time to just be a kid... at home. Thanks for putting into words what we've been striving for.

Sandy Toes said...

This was such a meaningful post for me...some we do and some of this does NOT happen...

You know sports have taken over your lives when your husband drives up from work...handing him a plate of dinner before he goes to our sons practice then you jump in the other car and take the other child to practice~

Honestly..I hate it but I don't know how to change it....just being honest here.

sandy toe

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful post. It made me stop and think for a minute about what changes I need to make in my own home. Thanks!

Lori@EnjoyThe Process said...

I've been thinking and praying a great deal lately about the "tone" of our home...but I've never thought about it in terms of thermostat / thermometer. I'm bookmarking this so that I can get some ideas for changing our temperature!!! Thanks for sharing!

Sally Jane said...

My kids are not in sports either. We just don't have the time. We go every afternoon after they come home from school, to work and feed our horses together. Rainy days and when dad is on conference calls are the only times they are allowed video games. It's amazing what small guidelines can do to bring peace to a once-chaotic home.

Great post!

Patti said...

It sounds like you would be comfortable in my house too!

I recommend American Heritage Girls - a growing scouting organization that is similar to Girl Scouts only Christian based. My daughter is blooming.

Charlotte said...

Did you read my cry for help?! I just admitted to having this problem with lack of a 'schedule'! The thermostat analogy really made sense to me. Thank you!

New momma said...

These sound like great ideas! My son is 7 months old and even now I want to try to impliment these kinds of things, like the turning off cable thing. I have stopped watching TV in the mornings though. Thanks for sharing these.


Thank you for this post! Your thermostat idea is inspiring!!

Most of the things you've mentioned we already do. We are just coming off TV turn off week and are working on TV moderation. I already see a great improvement!

It is so easy to be sucked into a crazy afterschool schedule and feel guilty for not having your child in everything!! It's nice to know I'm right in saying NO! We do two girl scout troop meetings a week and soccer on sundays. It's manageable, for now!!

You make me feel like an OK mom, thanks!! Have a great day!!

Maddy said...

Looks like we are right on the same page. I especially like the thermostat analogy. [although I'd add that a lock on the TV amoire is very helpful]

Tina said...

I love it! I have so much to work on around here to set a good tone. I love Donna Otto, too - I heard her speak when I lived in Switzerland. She's awesome!

Marci @OvercomingBusy said...

So true!! When my husband and I are on the same page and encourage family time rather than the lesson/class/team of the day, our home is a happier place.

Stephanie said...

We do a lot of this too. Except my husband is never home for diner and it's my least favorite time of day. I am trying new things to make it more enjoyable. It's hard after a full day to do diner for 5 alone. But...I'm trilled to find another family who thinks sports can wait. No TV or video games on school nights and we spend a lot...A LOT of time in our back yard and riding bikes.... This was a very encouraging post for me. Thanks

Tracey said...

Great post filled with so many practical suggestions! We do many of the things you mentioned, including limiting tv time and extracurricular activities and attempting to eat supper together every night. I do struggle with the last one - I am such a "schedule" person, but am trying to learn that sometimes there are more important things than having the kids in bed at exactly 8:30 every night!

Jaden Paige said...

I loved this post! Great advice!!

Renee said...

What a great post! So many kids today could not even fathom the kind of schedule you have.

Anna said...

You know, we had cancelled cable but left the movies for them to watch. Then they weren't getting picked up, and so I put them all away. The kids haven't missed them!

Holly said...

I love your correlation of parenting and being the thermostat--in control. Thanks for sharing all of the changes you and your husband have made.

We try hard to not be busy with activities/sports for our daughter, usually only one thing at a time, which has worked since she is to young to know any difference.

We still struggle with TV. Grrr.

eringoodman said...

we are working on this in our home right now - consciously choosing how we want our home to feel and how we spend our time together.

this post is very inspiring. thank you.

Bonnie Baker said...

Such a smart Mommy, you are!! All those Moms that complain about being so busy all the time make me crazy. You have to unbusy yourself! I have 5 kids and we are naturally busy but not TOO busy..now that I am a little older and a lot wiser.

Jenny said...

How funny! I was just thinking about schedules today.

I would really like to cut back on my daughter's TV time.

Kudos to you for making it work!

Michelle said...

Kristen, this sounds wonderful! We have discussed many of these principles but have not put many of them into play. I love that you elminated after school activites. My husband doesn't agree with this one and I feel societal pressure to have "well-rounded" kids but over-scheduled, high-strung kids, and over-scheduled, high-strung parents does not equal happy. Right now we only have B in cub scouts and it is so pleasant. I love that they can read, ride bikes, walk to the library, jump on the trampoline, and just be kids! My kids favorite days are the PJ days not the run here, run there days!

MommyAmy said...

You have no idea how timely this post is for me and our family! Thank you SO much! I'm bookmarking this to read to my hubby later tonight. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Thanks so much for all of the ideas. As of now we only have a 3 yr. old, but I already worry about many of the things you mentioned (over scheduling, too much TV etc...). I'm glad to hear it is possible to buck the trend and that you have been able to make changes that work for your family.

Jane Anne said...

Such wonderful reminders. I was going to say that this reminds me of what Ann Kroeker is writing about in her book but I saw that she was one of the 1st commenters. Thanks for sharing how you have changed your routines to have a more peaceful homelife. It was very encouraging.

Julie/mom said...

Great post. Creating and keeping a happy family is the greatest gift we can give the world!

Organizing Mommy said...

Good job! I'm encouraged! Thanks

Emily Ann said...

Thanks so much for this post! We are expecting our first child this fall, and this is something I worry over regularly. I think my parents did a good job of keeping our schedule non-chaotic while I was growing up, and I pray I can do the same for my children without hindering their interests and abilities.

Jennifer said...

I agree with limiting the screen time, it has really helped our family. What a great quote about the thermostat.

ginger said...

Growing up, my siblings & I were only allowed one extra-curricular activity each. I am appreciating my parents' wisdom in this now that my oldest wants to be involved in everything!

Leader of the Dream Brigade said...

I really needed to read something like this tonight. I've tried to do this with the help of my husband for nearly 10 years - with no success. We are, unfortunately, temporarily separated right now while working through some things. I'd often thought how much easier it would be to do those things you talked about in tonight's post without him in the home, fighting me at every step and effort.

While many things with my three kids have smoothed out tremendously, I still have a long way to go and it definitely is a struggle some days - even without my husband here. Your post was just a reminder for me of what I'm trying to do and to remember my ultimate goal - set the tone of my home. With any hope, once my husband is able to return home, it will be so ingrained in the kids and myself that he won't have any choice but to go along with us.

Thanks, Kristen, for encouraging me!!

Michelle@Life with Three said...

I think these are great suggestions. I've been wanting to cut back on the TV in our house for a while now, but I'm having a hard time because after my son watches his 30 minutes, he wants to sit and watch his sister's 30 minutes (they usually want to watch different shows). I'd be curious to know how y'all handle that in your house. Any thoughts?

Alexia said...

I've been trying lately to become the thermostat instead of the thermometer. My boys are only 2 & 3 right now, but I figured there's no better time than the present to figure all of this out. My biggest struggle right now is with the TV - while I only let them watch Christian shows - we still watch too much in one day. I've gotta get a handle on it! Honestly, why did they make TV such a GREAT (cheap) babysitter? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

That is so fabulous hon. Now if I could just get my family home temperature just right as well!

Mom said...

We completely ditched the cable five years ago and I have never once looked back. My husband has occasionally commented about reinstalling the cable demon - but I stand firm.

We watch videos all the time, but it only gets played if it can be put in a machine. If I don't buy it, then it can't be played.

Anonymous said...

Is it weird it is reassuring to me that we're doing something right since we parent in similar ways (although I probably yell more than you)?

Amy said...

many, many good ideas. we do or wil do many of these as our kids grow. they are almost 2 and two months. we currently dont even havea tv and i enjoy not having it as i see how i grew up not doing all these other thigns and i actually enjoy the peace and quiet.

Anonymous said...

i love the thermostat analogy! makes perfect sense! glad you and your family are working on finding a better balance.

Louisiana Laura said...

Thanks! This is great- I linked it to my post today- titled: "intentional parenting" and referred everybody to your blog! Thanks- Thanks, Thanks- Good stuff!

Anonymous said...