Step 1: Turn off the TV and replace it with some nice music. Some hymns or calming classical music is great, but whatever takes your fancy, as long as it is calm. I have a few CDs especially for this time in a handy spot. Pick CDs that aren't going to have loud, upbeat tracks in the middle - lullaby compilations are great. This worked for Saul (a bit anyway) and it is very worth giving it a go.
Step 2: Focus the children. One of my favourites is to get them to get a book each and sit in a chair or on a blanket on the floor. I then set the timer for 15 minutes and they may not move from their spot until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off, they can choose to change books or keep the same one for another 15 minutes. Play dough at the table can be an option depending on tiredness and excitement levels. Wiping down cupboards, rearranging bookshelves, anything they can do independently and without arguing is good. This isn't the time for big training sessions most of the time. To start training at this time is like a concert pianist doing scales during a concert! This is when your training pays off or you see things you need to work on.
Step 3: check your own voice. "Pick that up please" can be a phrase that makes a child a special helper or makes them cry just with a change of tone and volume. We do tend to set the tones for our homes with our voices and I know just how tough this one can be. The only thing that helps for me is prayer! If you need to try a technique used by Susannah Wesley and put your apron over your head and pray!
Oh, and if you get this right every day, call me and I will come over to your house!
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