A few months ago I posted part 1 of how we survived life with 6 under 6. I think it is time for part 2 (mainly because I can’t think of anything else to blog about this week). Here’s part 2a of how we survived.

In the moments when I’m most frustrated with my kids, I try to focus on the question “what can I learn about myself in this situation?” I’m learning that, when I’m most frustrated with my kids, it’s often because I’m doing something stupid-not because my kids are.

I know. That’s pretty deep, right?

Example 1: cleaning the playroom

As the kids have grown older, their playroom cleaning skills have improved dramatically. However, for a while, it seemed nearly impossible to get them to focus on cleaning long enough for anything to actually get accomplished. Why is cleaning a room so hard for kids? I often found myself saying things like, “Do you think that the box of cars is a good place for the stuffed animals?” and “Moving a pile of toys from one side of the room to the other is not cleaning.” and “STOP RIDING STICK HORSES; YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CLEANING.” and “If you hadn’t been riding stick horses, you’d be done by now.” and “STOP SWORD FIGHTING WITH STICK HORSES; YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CLEANING.” and “STOP PLAYING GOLF WITH THE STICK HORSES; YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE CLEANING.”

I absolutely adore my children; but, their 30 second attention spans during clean-up time drove me crazy…until I stopped and thought about the question: “What can I learn about myself in this situation?”

The answer: at the time I was tremendously frustrated with work. I didn’t feel like i was accomplishing anything. My work ethic stunk. Once I thought about it, I realized that I was basically spending a ton of my work time riding a stick horse. Well, not an actual stick horse; but, Twitter and Facebook are the stick horses of the adult world.

How did I solve my work problem?

I compartmentalized my day. Rather than staring down an overwhelming and unconquerable task list for the day (and likely saying, “Forget it. There’s no way I can do all of this stuff. Hmmmm….I wonder what’s going on on Twitter….”), I focused on small and achievable tasks: sort through a stack of papers; read 3 economic commentaries; ignore everything until my email inbox is cleared out; go through my Outlook task list and find items to delegate; etc. All of a sudden work got more manageable and my work ethic returned.

How did we solve the cleaning problem?

We divided the room into 3 sections. Each of our 3 older kids (the girls) became responsible for putting away all of the toys/trash/clothes/etc. in her 1 designated section.

For the younger kids, we gave them very specific tasks: “Your job is to pick up all of the stuffed animals off of the floor and put them in that box.” or “Your job is to pick up all of the cars and put them in that box.” or “Your job is to put all of the legos in the green lego box.”

The problem wasn’t my kids’ cleaning ethic. The problem was me. I was making my kids approach the task of cleaning the playroom like I had been approaching my day job. “Hey kids, you made a colossal mess. Sure, it looks impossible to clean. I don’t care. Go clean it up. Good luck with that.” If I had been failing to “clean up” my work stuff without a plan, how did I expect my kids to succeed in cleaning the playroom without one? Oops.

To summarize: raising a lot of kids, while an absolute blessing, is often stressful and chaotic. For me, life gets a lot less stressful when I make an effort to focus on fixing/improving myself rather than fixing/improving my ki