Peaceful Solutions to Minimize Family Strife with the right place

Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife

In  part 1 Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife there are some ideas for getting things done the by teaching and reteaching, often.

Many times we apply blanket solutions to problems but maybe this time we need to look in more detail at this child and this place:Peaceful Solutions to Minimize Family Strife with Specific Solutions was part 2.

We can find things if we know where they live. Everything has a home.

3 Where does it live?

There are no magic clean up fairies that live in our house permanently. One or two fly in every now and again, muttering quietly to themselves as they return books, toys, pens, LEGO, paper back to the right place.

We’d gotten lazy with reminding the boys to clean up and clear up so here we had a rod for our own back. Everyone needs to know where everything goes back and…..where to find the replacements!  The replacements that magically appear don’t train the children to replace things themselves.

We can find things if we know where they live. Everything has a home

One way I like to share to make this relevant is when family, friends or guests come to stay. When the children can refill the liquid soap, find the extra toothbrushes, stock up on the toilet roll, know where the replacement batteries are for the clock radio. They are joining in with getting the home ready for the new guest.

Have a game with your children and collect a few things like toilet roll, kitchen roll, extra tube/can of something you always have a spare of., cereal box, pens, backpack etc things that are kid related and well used. Ask the question, ” Where does XXX live?” This one question really helps because those that don’t know will do and when they live it out you can ask the question as a reminder to put it away.

Much time is lost when we are searching for things. If only they were put back. Much time is lost when only certain people know where the extras or replacements are kept.  As part of a peaceful home we all need to be able to function when some of us or all of us our here.

Start with writing a list of where you have things. Here’s one I did for our family.

Questions to ask yourself- Does everyone in the family know these answers?

  1. Where do I get the blank paper to draw/write on?
  2. Which paper is for the printer only?
  3. Where does the construction paper live?
  4. Where does the crayons and coloring things live?
  5. Where are the extra toilet rolls, kitchen towels, napkins etc kept?
  6. Where does the washing machine soaps and detergents live?
  7. Where are the cleaning products and what to do if they are running/run out?
  8. Where do papers go that come in from school?
  9. Where do shoes and boots live?
  10. Where do the coats live?
  11. Where do the musical instruments and sports equipment live?
  12. Where do I leave my bike and other outdoor games and toys?
  13. Where does the tape, envelopes, string, scissors, glue live?
  14. Where do the pencils and pens live?

The final part of where does this live after the family can find, replace and use these items is finding a way to know when they are almost finished or finished.  With multiple people refilling and replacing we often rely on someone else to say that it’s almost done or assume that everyone knows you finished the last part.

Also talking about leaving an area as you found it or better. As part of his contribution, he needed to replace the toilet rolls. But if that means opening a new package and leaving the empty bags on the floor it’s only a partial solution. We need to remain vigilant to teach the whole sequence including tidying up and reporting back.

What are you simplifying for a peaceful solution at home?

Family Meal Ritual Printable and Family goals and priorities for March

Family goals and priorities  for the month + a create your own family meal ritual printable

February has been a bigger blend of busy and slow. We’ve had a day here and there when we were going a lot but we then had lots of very slow days which seemed to even out everything. Mostly our days are slow and it’s learning how to navigate the busier days when they come along that’s often the more challenging for us and our family goals.

Birthday celebrations went well. Spring is birthday heavy in our families. We’re enjoying the ups and downs of the weather of frost one day and humid the next. I’m missing the daffodils. I need to find out when to plant them for next year.

Each month I’m sharing family and personal goals along with others and linking back to the previous month. I’d encourage you to join in too. Bit of accountability through a blog post or Instagram as we journey through motherhood.

Family goals

Here I’ll talk about the children and as parents the parenting things we’ll do and what we did.

We got a few short pillar candles and we’re glad to see them back.

Set up and clean up is improving. I wrote a two posts about our family meal ritual sharing what we’ve explored. It’s going to be an ongoing thing for them to get better and me to understand. Time to let them have time.

We didn’t finish the Island of Thieves- although we’re aching to find out what happens in the end. We know we’ll start The Academy next.  It’s a book we’ve started before as a read aloud but during the move and book rotation it disappeared. We were very happy to find it again.

The academy

I’m excited to be going to the Great Homeschooling Convention this month because the list of speakers feature so many of my favourites. So after the convention I’ll have some family goals to add. In the meantime we’ll get through these last few. Plus we have more birthdays and UK Mother’s day this month, we’re going to maintain our routines as we can and go with the flow as much as possible.

We completed, after lots of revisions our family quest scroll and that’s now hanging up by our dining table. We try and say it together 2  or more times together in the week. Keeping it top of mind.

Personal goals

Here I’ll talk about things for me.

  • Print a photobook or pictures to add to our wall.
  • Complete my next toastmasters speech
  • Completed The Traveller’s Gift and Nurturing the Soul of family. I’ve started the And the mountains echoed and dipping in and out of  A House United.
  • Unexpected bonus with the felted pebbles. We made them together and now use them as where we sit at the dinner table. One less argument over who is sitting at which map placemat. It’s also great to feel and fiddle with during dinner or conversations at the table. Originally it was just something for the table since the usual flowers and plants are not there.
  • Completely stalled on the journal- mislaid it! Found it! Mislaid it. Will try again.

Family Meal Rituals

Rituals that are simple, repeatable year on year and express love and family.

This month download your creating a family meal ritual to plan your own family flow.

family meal ritual cover

Free Printable

Hosted by Mama Smiles, Multi Crafting Mummy, Kitchen Floor Crafts,
3 Dinosaurs, Something 2 Offer, Play Activities, and Study At Home Mama.

Completing the Family Meal Ritual

Setting up a family ritual takes time as you try things out in your family. As the children get older we try new things and because sometimes we fancy a change.
Last time we talked about the need for a family ritual and explained the ritual from beginning too just as we were about to eat. You can read this beginning part first. There are some affiliate links within this post. Now on with this second part.

What happens after you’ve been grateful for the food?

Ideas for creating your family meal ritual

Engagement, Questions and Games

During the meal we talk about our day, ask questions or these questions or our new questions source. We really like how that last book is split into questions for the kids to ask us and questions that we can ask them. We enjoy the table topics- Familia questions. We share projects, posters from school, test revision questions- anything goes. We’ve been big fans of dinner games, in the past and recently we’ve had fun with “Don’t Say it!

All our regular mats are maps, significant places to us or homemade. We have many Geographical games celebrating our love of travel and Geography and History. ( Personally, I’m always excited when the Peter’s Projection Map comes out and the World Map, as we know it. No need to say anything to the kids. We have some good conversations about perspective)

Family meal gatherings are not quick and sombre things. We take time to rest easy in each other’s company. We notice our moods. It’s a time to laugh, share, catchup and connect. It’s a place we want to be. Without it we miss what’s going on with each other.

Service opportunities

When there’s time, opportunity and space we like to serve the food into bowls and containers. We want the boys to learn how to serve others.

Guests are served first, then the ladies present and finally each other. This ritual came about slowly as a way of expressing self control, kindness and being mindful of the portion size we take.  Also it allows the boys, who are all quite quick eaters to pace themselves a little.

Closing up and getting up and down from the table

We have quite a full table. We try and discourage getting up and down from the table as it’s really disruptive to those talking and the flow of the family meal. They are getting better at excusing themselves both verbally and non verbally without interrupting the speaker.

As acts of kindness the boys often take up the parents plates or each others. They’ve done this mostly themselves and we’ve not complained about it.

We wait for everyone to finish before serving dessert, if there is one.

Returning the collection, tidying up- knowing our roles

family meal ritual setup

We put back what we brought to the table and generally  try and work together to get things back where we can find them again easily. I used to sweep and wipe the table but I realised just recently that I wasn’t doing myself or the children any favours. I must say that the floor is a little cleaner now they are sweeping it :)

What you can’t see in this photo is the name of each child just off screen. We use initials and rotate the people every so often. We leave up the initial for the last time so we have an idea of who did what and who is doing what and it helps for the next time it changes.

Making the family meal your own

family meal ritual 3

Our family meal looks quite structured but for the most part we’ve added things slowly as we felt it fit our family. That’s the beauty of family meal rituals. We have our passions ( maps) and our values ( kindness and service) present. We keep it simple and repeatable. It’s the backbone to future conversations with friends, colleagues and others.

It’s not about family dinner or every meal spending time together as a family, it’s about when we are together, making those moments count. Have high expectations for your meal. How we handle dinner is part of our family standard. Working together we have our best version of our family meal . A place where memories are born.

Enjoy other rhythms for family

Follow Mel Avila’s board Simple rhythms and schedules in the home on Pinterest.

Creating a Family Meal Ritual

Creating a family meal ritual whether it's family dinner or another meal

Family meal times are a great place for connection, catchup and comfort. Like all things it changes over time as our family grows and changes. It’s a chance to put our values into action.

We wish for good

  • conversation
  • food
  • and a pleasant atmosphere

Building family rhythms help families create those 3cs of connection, catchup and comfort. The family meal time is anytime of the day that you want. As a family it’s tended to be the dinner time but we have family meal times at breakfast or lunch just as easily.

Why a Family Meal Ritual anyway?

  • We love the coming together of everyone participating in the meal. There may have been one person cooking but everyone has a hand in making the meal a family effort. This together thing helps families to know their strength as a unit and how we each are needed separately.
  • We love how we can repeat the same experience wherever we rest, be it hotel or holiday. We do this one thing the same.
  • We love our eclectic props and tools that each tell a story of children, friends, family and places.
  • We know what to expect- there’s time to anticipate and participate.
  • Whatever has happened we come together and do this thing in love.


Atmosphere at the table

Over the years we’ve found that you can plan for a good atmosphere, a little bit. There will always be curve balls but have a little something ready comes easily after a time and the children catch on and follow the lead. Now with five of us there’s always something to talk about.

We ask that everyone comes to the table ready to commune.  We have the giggly kids who arrive, still playing and knock over things and the mad kids who are still mad about something and would prefer to fold their arms and harumpf all through dinner.

We ask that the kids come to the table ready to be at the table asking that they resolve disputes enough to be civil and calm down enough to not be a liability to the things on the table. We’re not perfect but this has helped our atmosphere.


family meal ritual setup

Like contributions, we find it best to know who is doing what to helping set up the table. This is a recent thing for us. We used to let them have a free for all, in fact I quite like the negotiation skills they were developing but there is always at least one who gets the raw end of the stick and right now we’re helping them out from getting the worse jobs. Plus some children hog certain jobs and refuse to let them go. We’ll rotate between free for all and assigned rotating setups.

Collection and Setup

family meal ritual ideas

When you know what you’re doing it’s easy to do your job, know when something is missing and who it belongs to. The kids help each other out as one finishes up homework, colouring a picture a brother might complete their task. It’s an easy way to show kindness without expecting praise and reward. It also reduces the fighting over what which anything. It’s amazing at this sometimes cranky time, squabbles erupt over minor things. Right now they decide and have full control over their area and frankly they love it!

Gathering- pause, thankful practice

Family meal ritual ideas. Connecting at the  dinner table

We all gather at the table that’s fully laid. Many times Sometimes we need a pause to bring us all to the table. Slow breaths in and out or a 3- 5 second silence usually brings us all present away from the giggles, to do list making in our heads and not humming that song.

We say Grace using these prayer sticks.  We’ve also added to this list

  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and Uncles
  • Cousins
  • Family nearby and far away
  • Friends
  • Each of our names
  • Teachers
  • Helpers
  • Those who are hungry
  • Those who are hurting or sick
  • Those who need a hug and a friend

If we pull our name we put it back. Sometimes we get an off the cuff prayer, one person or everyone. Whatever works for the moment. All these activities lead up to the eating. The anticipation and joy of being together.

Follow my board for more ideas on family atmosphere
Follow Mel Avila’s board Family Atmosphere on Pinterest.

Join us for Part 2- From conversation to the end of the meal- Creating a Family Meal Ritual

Family goals and priorities for February

Family goals and priorities Feb

Although I love making goals I need some accountability in reaching them.

I’m sure I’m not alone there. Since I’m a big believer in scheduling things to get it done I’m also good at rescheduling and bumping myself of my own schedule. Just to be transparent. So in a bid to get more of the positive things I want and dream for the family started I’ve joined a new linky where we share our monthly goals.

Started is a better way ( instead of word of the year) for me in 2015. Many times I flesh out an entire project or idea and something happens and I can’t see how it can fit anymore. The whole thing gets benched. But if I get started then there is a chance to continue. When I stop it’s not a stop it is a pause. I can dive right back in. With this in mind, all the goals are things I want to do but most of all get started, keep going and be consistent. If I don’t keep going I can circle back around and once I get past keeping going then the point is to remain consistent.

I don’t have a hard time with this system although it might seem like a get out of jail free card. Our home life ebbs and flows depends on work, health, life and the kids. While there are some rigid things there’s also plenty of flexibility. The problem is keeping account of where you deduct you time from when you’re flexible.

I’m going to share two areas; family goals and personal goals.

I’d designed the Simple Parenting and Play Planner out of the need to have more of our family dreams and ideas a chance to actually come to light. So I’ll sometimes share what I’m doing with my planner too.


Family goals

Here I’ll talk about the children and as parents the parenting things we’ll do.

  • Find a just right pillar candle for dinner. We had one before we moved but you can’t take candles with you when you move overseas. I just noticed that it’s missing from our dinner ritual.
  • Work with the kids for a better and more effective set up and clean up at dinner time. It’s almost there but a few key parts are missed. I’m really looking for pride in doing a good job because we stopped to observe that it was complete, not that it was done perfectly. Many times I call the boys back for something because they got distracted and didn’t finish. When I call them back and say, ‘ Can you see something that’s not right?’ they can. I want to see fewer call backs and them saying a mantra or doing something to do that final look over. So when I ask them that question they can say no. Done not perfect is what I think.
  • Read aloud before the bus in the morning:
    The Island of Thieves   and complete this book by the end of the month and find a new one.
  • During our Family Roundtable: talk about family trips, places to see and things to do from the planner

Personal goals

Here I’ll talk about things for me.


Birthday Rituals

February is a birthday month so there’s the fun of the birthday rituals to plan.

Rituals that are simple, repeatable year on year and express love and family.

Simple love birthday rituals printable
free printable


Be sure to check out more monthly goal setting

hosted by Mama Smiles, Multi Crafting Mummy, Kitchen Floor Crafts,
3 Dinosaurs, Something 2 Offer, and Play Activities.

4 Family Flow ideas for a More Peaceful Family Home

family flow for a peaceful family home

Family flow are the things that keep your family moving. Typically we focus on routines like the morning run or contributions. These are places where we get stuck and instead of flowing there’s a problem. With families the earlier you can start working on your family flow the easier it is as they get older. Bad habits are hard to break. Often if you think of some of the things that are bugging you about your family atmosphere it’s likely that there’s a family flow problem.

For a more peaceful family home we need to work together as a family. This can’t come from just one direction. Here are four ways we can tighten up our family flows.

Devise systems

Devise systems so you’re not reteaching the same thing many times. Many of the things we get frustrated with as parents are to do with children not knowing the system ( or doing the system!) Systems seem so boring but it gives the chance to master something when we have a way that we do it. We all have our things; how to hang clothes/fold into draws.


Rotate responsibilities

As a military spouse I know that my partner deploys and work commitments may take him out of the home for extended periods of time.  Many families have this same situation with spouses who travel for work or shift workers.

We need to know how to do everything. We may split things up when our partner is home but we need to know how to do when they are away. The same for the kids. Whether you’re a girl or boy you need to know how to do laundry and notice when the idle is playing up on the car. ( well maybe not the idle just yet but you get my point) Contributions are great but not if you’re stuck with the same one for life. Everyone needs to have a chance to learn how to do each thing.

Guard freetime & downtime.

We all need the break but here is where we steal time to fit a few things in. It might mean scheduling free time on your calendar to make sure it doesn’t get squeezed. Maybe you need to leave the house, hike, meet other families to get your freetime. Nothing planned. No directing. Letting the passions bubble up and creativity ooze. We need the break.

Come together in laughter and expression

Share the problems with the family and you’ll be amazed at the solutions that come. We have a springy laundry basket, great for flattening to take in a suitcase. The boys hurl their laundry at it. Laundry is draped over it, falling out of it and because it’s not strong sided it regularly tips over after the launch of a pair of jeans comes its way. I felt I was the only one picking everything up. It was a frustration. I knew the boys were pitching and walking and not looking at the basket. I asked one of the boys, I have no idea why I asked, but I’m glad I did, ” What would you do if you saw this ( pointing at the disaster of the laundry basket!)? How would you fix it?” So sweetly he said, “I’ll do it.” Taking this to our family roundtable would be the next best thing to find some solutions that work too.

Retelling funny stories and incidents from your day or bringing back up fun times from the past is a great way to unite a family. All too often family roundtables and dinner is hijacked by something negative that’s happened in school, home or life. We have to parent. I get it but we must also seek out- draw out the positive funnies too. We love sharing the latest corny joke, made up joke- that’s not quite funny, sniggering over the Confessions podcast, retelling favourite scenes. We want times of laughter and expressions of frustration to be blended into the family instead of weighted heavily in either direction.

Bringing together a regular routine of systems, routines, guarding freetime and allowing for a blend of laughter and expression gives the family a chance to experience the ebb and flow of life. We have more time to do things together and apart because one member of the family isn’t doing it all. We learn to work, laugh and support each other as family. We learn our place. How important we are to the family.

Once you learn how to do things after following the instructions you’re free to go off course, try new things and play about with the current model. Family flows don’t need to be regimented and militant in execution ,at all. They do give a warm and cosy direction for the kids to follow instead of the usual game of guess what mummy and daddy want me to do and how they want me to do it.

Our family atmosphere is dramatically better when we’ve looked into some of our family flows and made the adjustments we need for our family. How about your family?

Peaceful Solutions to Minimize Family Strife with Specific Solutions

Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife #2 Try to solve a specific problem

This is part two of the series: Peaceful Solutions to minimize family strife.


The first go to solution is to teach and reteach as it’s often only through going through the motions with another that you see where the mix up happened.  Though sometimes there is a specific problem that needs a specific solution and teach and reteach isn’t the right fit.

I’ll share a problem that we’ve had that seems fixed at the moment. If there’s nothing I’ve learnt with my three boys is there is never a THE END solution.

2 Try to solve the specific problem with a specific solution

Problem: The toothpaste isn’t squeezed from the bottom up. It’s squeezed from the sides. The result is a lot( a lot) of waste in the sink. Toothpaste that’s thrown away that has toothpaste still inside they just can’t squeeze by gripping it out.

Lost lids. It gets stepped on- splodge! yes more comes out. With three active boys there is a toothpaste war in the bathroom everyday. Dried toothpaste.

The bonus is the bathroom does smell minty! But this positive really doesn’t outweigh the problem of toothpaste use. So I’ve tried #1 teach and reteach.

Solution:  Find a toothpaste that isn’t squeezy on the sides. We search now for the pump toothpastes. It dispenses a small amount, usually and minimizes the regular clean up of toothpaste everywhere and the lid problem isn’t such a problem.

Instead of just reacting to the massacre in the bathroom  or cleaning it up myself there is an alternative solution that helps. For this specific example it’s just too much fun to over squeeze the toothpaste and it’s hard to control the blob when you squeeze it with your fist.  As young children their impulse control and self control is developing but we want to balance out that practice with our pocket.

There are plenty of other solutions like giving each child the blob ourselves or watching over them as they dispense. There are many. For our family we’re trying this one. I can see already the youngest has to put a lot of pressure down to get the toothpaste out but so far they’ve found a solution themselves for that. I’m pretty happy they enjoy problem solving too.

Peaceful solutions for families #2 Try to solve the specific problem

Finding a specific solution to a problem that pushes your buttons helps support us have a peaceful and calmer family atmosphere. Finding those little hiccups in our family flow and dwelling on them not to brood but to get creative and find one less way for us to roar and lose our cool. It’s good news for all of us.

This week for us it is toothpaste.

This is the second part of the series : Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife.

Find the first part : Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife. #1

What is it for you?

Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife

Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife

Sitting quietly before the kids are awake, the house is completely still. I really should have a cup of my hot brew but I know that the kettle might wake everyone as it’s nearly time to wake up.

It’s peaceful, calm and the day ahead is so full of positive peaceful possibilities.

Fast forward an hour and I’m not so peaceful calm or positive because the red flags have come up. My buttons are pushed. My triggers are right there.

Thoughts like….

…they’ve had breakfast but their empty bowls are there and there’s cereal all over the floor.

… the tap is on and no one there.

….the storyteller shares his story but doesn’t get ready so we’re going to be late.

…PJs on the floor.

…stuff that missed the bin.

… hurtful words said brother to brother.

No matter how many positive thoughts I have , these things triggers are going to be there.

Day after day this happened last year I realised. So this time I’m going to take a more radical solution to ‘my watch it happen again and again then get mad approach’.  Instead of knowing it’s going to happen and seeing it unfolding.

What if…..what if I was proactive and used the knowledge of what’s happened before and try and head off the negative before it happens.

Be proactive

Let’s face it, we all have triggers and while you may laugh at mine. We all have family values, standards and expectations we want our families to share. We have to share and share often so that everyone understands.

You’ll be surprised at how many times you just take care of things because it’s easier than finding the person and getting them to do it . For truly peaceful solutions to minimize family strife you’ll need to get back to that cool calm voice and person and share share share.

In this series I’ll share some peaceful solutions that will minimize family strife so you really can ALL have more peace and calm in the day.

1 Teach and reteach

We enjoy contributions like the next family. Our children participate in daily assigned contributions . They also help when needed to each other and the family. Great. Except how are the contributions done. If every time you want the vegetable peeler, dustpan or the tape you have to go look for it. It becomes pretty frustrating. Especially if all these things have assigned places. The kids have just forgotten and/or just not diligent. It doesn’t matter so much to them. It was the act of putting it away and contributing that was the deal not where it ended up. Since moving house where we put things has changed and the boys putting dishes away skills hasn’t.  This is a perfect example of teach and reteach often. Instead of getting triggered and frustrated that I can’t find the peeler ( because it’s not where it lives) before the activity or take a deep breath and at the time, I teach and often I reteach.

It is often the little things that niggle in the family and alter the family atmosphere. To help the family flow to remain smooth we must proactively iron out these kinks or let them go. Learn to let go shines in our voice too.

Teach and reteach is so valuable because as our children get older so now they can do differently and our circumstances change; we’re working outside the home, we homeschool, new baby comes, we move, our hours change, we are out the house more we need to adapt our family flow so that our atmosphere at home is as we wish it to be. Less of the growling monster roaring around each corner and more of the encouraging calm parent with time to notice, restate and tighten up the system.

Observation is a powerful tool in our family atmosphere. You can't change what you don't see. You can't appreciate what you've not noticed.


This is first part of the series : Peaceful solutions to minimize family strife.

What would be one of the first things you would like to reteach?

Part two: Peaceful Solutions to Minimize Family Strife with Specific Solutions 

10 ways to Nurture a Positive Family Atmosphere

Nurturing a positive family atmosphere


This year!

What would you add to the list?


Follow the Family Atmosphere board for more ideas

Follow Mel Avila’s board Family Atmosphere on Pinterest.

How side by side time nurtures our boys

How side by side time nurtures our boys. Here's that time and place for those difficult conversations they want to have and we want to have with themDuring a marriage DVD set with friends sometime ago I remember hearing about side by side time for the first time. I enjoy face to face time the most with my girlfriends and it turns out that most women are like this too. Guys and definitely my husband like side by side time.

During this time for either of us it is where conversations happen- the deeper conversations, difficult conversations come and things come up. It’s when he’s working on something and I’m doing something nearby. It doesn’t have to be completely side by side but definitely nearby.

The main point is we’re not across from each other.

I remember after hearing that section how looking back on what we did together my husband was always inviting me to join him for side by side activities and I craved do nothing but sit face to face activities. He needed to talk and that was his signal. Now he knew mine too.

It was such a light bulb moment for us both to understand how it made us feel when we did the right thing for the other.

Mother of boys applying side by side time to her boys

As the mother of boys I figured that if my husband likes side by side time then perhaps my sons would like this too.

Somehow I needed to figure in ways to have plenty of side by side time. Naturally, I forgot this at the beginning stages of having my family. We did our big conversations face to face for the most part. It’s how I do things so I naturally did what I do. I don’t think I’m alone. As a boy mum I had a lot to learn about finding what works for my boys. Not everything boy related would but I try different things.

While reading Wild things- the art of nurturing boys, I was reminded about how deliberate we need to be with our boys. I only have boys so this is my perspective. That deliberance isn’t always obvious and intuitive for us as mothers. We do what we like and know based on our very different, and sometimes limited experiences.

It’s not easy to just do something different. I love these boys books because we have real examples, situations and I can see how I would deal with it from people who have gone before me.

Side by Side activities work I believe, because there’s a lack of eye contact on both sides. It’s really hard to not react with your whole body when you hear something. Our family knows us too well. Yet there are things we want and need to talk about. For boys, my boys maybe your boys too not facing you while they tell you might mean they tell you more.

Now, how do we get more of this talking and sharing as a habit while they are little so that as they grow this is a part of family life? We want our sons to be able to share and we want to be able to share the important stuff with them.

Examples of side by side activities

Making lunch      making lunch

washing dishes     Drying dishes and putting away / emptying the dishwasher

Wiping down surfaces/Dusting                Sweeping/mopping

board games

Preparing a meal


Gardening          watering/ yard work

Reading              reading

Crafting              music practice/fun time/ model making

walking/ walking the dog/ walk into town

Car journeys      school run/clubs and activities

Folding laundry

Contributions ( Chores) are also a good way of working side by side with boys. As they do their job you do something nearby.

Side by side activities are any activities where we’re not hovering but doing the activity and they are doing an activity close by.

( Can be the same or a different activity) We’re both out of direct eye contact if we look up. Usually we need to turn to see each other’s face.We are near enough that either of us can just start a conversation, say something and we’re both able to hear and respond.

How side by side time worked for us

Side by side conversation worked for us in a big way this week.

“He took it from me.”

This is what my son said to me on Monday, 2 minutes before leaving for the school bus. I was emptying the dishwasher and he was cleaning the table of the breakfast things and stacking them in the sink. My immediate need was to swing around and fire off a lot of questions to clarify what he said. But I heard his quiet voice mumbling behind me, unloaded a few plates and fought back those first thoughts. He had the space now to fill. Totally bad timing but this was too important. He was sharing. I could take him to school.

I don’t know when he would have brought up that situation. We’d had dinner the night before. The incident had happened yesterday. There had been the usual face to face time. He didn’t take it.

It was serious enough for him to have been worried about sharing with me. Because we had the side by side time he didn’t see my big wide eyes or my deep breathing. He had space to share his long story where he gets himself into trouble too. While I unloaded the dishwasher.

Whether I dealt with the situation the youngest mentioned well is another story but I’m glad for these side by side activities. He shared the situation. We could deal with it. I’m convinced because of our side by side time.

Nurture these times and carve them into your everyday activities so they have plenty of opportunities to share what’s on their hearts.

As time goes by and you have an older boy you’ll be happy for the regular snatches of conversations and you’ll have some mighty interesting conversations on both sides without the judgment and your first emotions stealing the show.

Your turn

When your son shared something deep or important to them were you side by side or face to face? I’m curious for just this last time? What were you doing? Share below.



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