Three Strategies to Keep Your Kids From Sucking You Dry

Posted by Kathryn Stolle on


You know the feeling. You finally have a few minutes to yourself, you sink down into your chair and feel as empty and dried out as an old cornhusk. You ask yourself, “What can I do to keep these kids from sucking me dry?”                                                                                                        

It’s a question mothers of children young and old have been asking themselves for years... no…for millennia. Just imagine the harried mother back in medieval times, poking at a peat fire, a gaggle of hungry children around her and wondering when she’d be able to take a break.

When you put it into perspective, the “problems” we face today aren’t as physically taxing as hers were. We have every convenience to make life easier. Imagine churning your own butter, cooking over an open fire, no refrigeration for your food, sewing your family’s clothes, hand washing them in a tub and – God help you – no toilet paper!

On the other hand, life is a lot more complicated for most of us than it was back then. Double income families struggle to make ends meet, kids are involved in every imaginable activity that seem to require driving, parents are bombarded on all sides with advice – often conflicting - on how to be a good parent. Today’s “problems” are many and, for most of us, very real.

Rather than being physically worn out, moms and dads are drained of emotional energy – and every bit as exhausted as parents of yesteryear. Children are no longer just one part of a parents' day-to-day, instead they have become the focal point of a parent's non-work time. And increasingly more demanding.

Human nature being what it is, the more you fill every want – not need – the more they will feel entitled to make demands. 

Three Basic Strategies

If you find that your child is sucking you dry with constant demands and unreasonable behavior, try these three strategies:

1.  Define your family’s space(s)

Decide where your child should play, spend time out, eat and carry out all his or her daily activities. Toys scattered everywhere, kids walking around eating their food or clothes dropped where they were taken off creates chaos. Having specific or “special” areas or places where they do specific things makes life easier for all concerned all the way around. 

However, it could be that the house is just plain cluttered – in which case you could be the key. There is a variation in a gene sequence known as Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF that makes a person prone to hoarding and overeating.

If you’re unable to clean, get out and do things, throw things away or get organized in the first place, you could have this genetic disorder.

And if you’re also a little overweight, it turns out that cleaning up the clutter could also help you lose weight.     

If your child shows the same tendencies to hoard, helping them from a very early age to develop the ability to keep their surroundings reasonably straight could be the key to a healthier, happier life as they grow older.

Putting toys away in boxes or on shelves at the end of the day, taking their clothing to the laundry room, making their beds in the morning (even having very small ones “help” you) gives them a sense of control over their environment, as well as a sense of accomplishment.

As you make this a routine with the kids, it can also help you to find ways to de-clutter your house – from kitchen to bedroom to family living areas.



2.      Just say NO

Do you negotiate with your child? Of course you want your kids to learn to be self-sufficient and able to hold their own.

But kids will push you to your limits and sometimes it’s easier to just say yes. After all, you can only take so much “Moooooooom!” 

Scenario: you’re on the phone and having a great conversation with your friend. In the background it’s like the kids have been waiting to ambush you with crying, fighting, wanting your exclusive attention, you name it. By the way, it happens with dogs, too.

What do you do? You stop your conversation and focus on the situation more often than not. But what if you were to just leave the room and shut the door? Crying for a few minutes will not hurt your baby or toddler no matter how blood curdling the screams, the kids won’t kill each other if you promise to do something with them in a few minutes, and a firm “Mommy’s on the phone” as you shut the door is a reasonable action.

There are tons of other situations – mainly in public where they know causing a scene is the last thing you want to have happen. It’s the bag of cookies at the supermarket, wanting to stay later at the playground, leaving a friend and then throwing a screaming fit when you say no.

Set expectations and – gasp – rules: “When we go to the store today, I will decide what we buy.” Or “I’ll give you a 5 minute heads up before it’s time to go and then we go.” Or “ When you start to become whine-y and demanding in front of other people, I’ll always say no.”

Setting ground rules as your kids grow from infancy to adolescence gives them a sense of security and a framework of ways to deal with the world around them. 

3.   Rethink your schedule

Or make a schedule in the first place! One of the first principles of good management is creating structure and defining roles. The more clear your schedule or routine is, the easier it is for all to follow. This can be especially difficult if you’re a working parent.

It’s natural to want to spend as much time with your kids as possible, but you could be doing them a disservice.

Kids need and want to depend on the world around them unfolding in a reliable way. They need to know what will happen next – whether it’s going to day care after breakfast or brushing their teeth and then off to bed.

When things are in a constant – not occasional – state of flux, kids tend to become hyper and ever more demanding as they seek to control their surroundings. This goes from infants to children of all ages.

For example, going out for an ice cream cone when your child should be going to bed one night and insisting on an early bedtime the next – if done fairly regularly – keeps kids off balance rather than giving them the ability to deal with changes in their environment, particularly when they’re small. The net result is that they can become even more demanding.

 When you have a set time for getting up, eating, play time, nap time, and going to bed, a side benefit is limiting the number of times you need to say no or deal with a child demanding his or her own way.

Notice a common thread here? All three strategies have to do with creating a routine and sticking with it. The more you do, the less stressed you will be. Kids sucking you dry just might become a thing of the past.


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