Four Moms Q and A; 4/18/13


The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are changing our structure, basically switching the current format of three weeks of assigned topics and one week of Q and A. From now on 3 of us will be answering Q&A every Thursday, and once a month all 4 of us will write on some preassigned topic.

To have your question considered for our weekly Q&A, leave it on our 4 Moms Facebook page.

  • I was wondering if you have any tips for getting seven year old boys to sit still and pay attention during devotions and prayer time. I’m at my wits’ end! Prayer time usually disintegrates into giggling and comments about poop or something similar. The girls (5 and are fine (usually), but my 7 year old boy is driving me crazy. You can’t force reverence; how do I enforce respect?

Somewhere on this blog I once shared a photograph of our son at our weekly family Bible study which we then hosted and shared with three other families.  I just spent half an hour in a fruitless search for it to share with you, so I will have to describe it.  Our son had been reprimanded and finally directed to clasp his hands tightly together and to keep them that way for the duration of Bible study.  The picture I want shows him in a contortionist’s position as he attempted to put his legs over and through his inter-locked arms, in order to bring his hands from his front to his back.  He was twisted like a pretzel, but he was keeping his hands clasped as directed.  That said…. here are some other suggestions:

This is flicking. It need not be the forehead- the back of the hand or the thigh works.

Do not let boys sit together. Make it clear that discussions of poop are appropriate in the bathroom, with the doctor, and, if it is okay with you, with other seven year old boys around the campfire (honestly I don’t think you can ban them), but not in mixed company or in the midst of a Bible study, and enforce infractions however you have chosen to enforce them.  I am in favor of flicking and I wield a keen double whammy (that’s what we call ‘the look’).

I did not require perfectly still- some shifting, wriggling, and movement is allowed. I let them draw and look at books or make shapes with pipecleaners.

Do explain that it’s bad manners to distract others or make it difficult for others to pay attention or hear.


  • Tips for dealing with an almost 4yo who has to see/hear/know everything. “What is brother doing? What did brother do?” How does she learn how to not need her nose in everything all day? It’s partly cute/inquisitive and partly brain melting.

Consider introducing your child to the idea of journalism or researcher as career options.

Answer questions with questions of your own, “I don’t know, what do you think?  What does it look like he is doing? What do you think he did?  What do you want him to do? If you were brother, what would you be doing? Why do you want to know?”

And when you have tired of answering questions, it’s okay to use my grandparents’ non-answers.  There were two- one was “To see a man about a horse,” and the other was “Cat fur to make kitten britches.”  We quickly learned these were signals that our interview time was over, and so did my children.

  • How do you balance housework and schoolwork? How much time does each take? What is a reasonable level of clean for a small house constantly full of lots of people and constantly used? I sometimes feel as though if I were to keep the house clean I would spend all my time cleaning and no schoolwork would get done.

I don’t do balance well, and I lean toward school and as far away from housework as I can.  We all live in our house all day long and it’s okay for it to look like real human beings live here doing real human being things.  I do have some ideas for trying to be better organized.  You also just have to stay flexible and adjust your expectations and sto looking for the perfect schedule.

A few books did help me more than others:
A Mother’s Rule
The Messies Manual
and, believe it or not, a book with nothing much to do with housework, Open Heart, Open Home. Karen Burton Mains helped me put things in perspective and not let my far from perfect home keep me from hospitality or other things I should be doing.
Benedict’s Rule of Order (seriously!)
And talking to older moms of large families who could tell me what had worked for them, what hadn’t, and how things had changed along the way.

  • I am wondering how you handle disobedience/ tantrums in the car? Do you pull over and discipline right away? And what if you can’t do that?

Sometimes we did do this- quite often, in fact (just pulled over).  Sometimes if the child was old enough to follow this and I couldn’t pull over, I told them that if the misbehavior did not cease immediately, once I was able to pull over, there would an extra disciplinary measure for every 30 seconds it continued.  That could mean an extra: swat; push up; minute in time out; number of weeds to pull; you decide.  Sometimes I required all talking, singing, noise making of any sort and all eye contact with siblings to cease and desist immediately.

But with the Little Boys we started something new- they either have to raise their hands high over their heads and keep them there  for the specified amount of time or lean over and put their noses on their knees for the specified amount of time.

  • What do you do with things like shoes, bags, coats, etc. that usually get dropped on our floor at the back door? Mail, things that need to be returned to folks, things that get brought in the car, etc. I’m trying to come up with a workable plan for all our junk at the back door. It’s OVERWHELMING!

We have a key holder on the wall by the back door. It has pockets for mail. We have a basket where we are supposed to put all those things that belong to somebody else. We have a coat-rack over the back door, outside the back door in the garage, and in the living room by the front door so that it’s not hard to hang up coats. In our old house this was just a long board with coat hooks screwed in, and the board was screwed into the wall. In the new house, where the walls aren’t as sound, we use an Over the Door Wardrobe Rack and Over the Door hooks.
Bags also hang on coat-hooks.
Shoes are supposed to go in the owner’s room, but they do end up in our mud-room a lot. I use cubbies, which are really old bookcases, and old milk crates:

More about our large mud-room here.

  • What curriculum are you currently using?

I use AmblesideOnline as our base, and have for the last 14 years or so.  I adapt a few things using books I already own and love, but which are out of print and so a little harder to find.   We currently watch K-Dramas for social studies (smirk), and try to answer some of these questions as we watch.

  • How do you deal with a nursing baby at night? Do you cosleep, quickly train them to sleep, etc? How do you do it? What about a baby who has their days and nights confused? I’m really struggling with a baby that doesn’t want to sleep at night! (another question is similar):  moms’ tips on sleep training. What are your opinions on the “cry it out” method? How do you teach them and at what age should a child be expected to sleep in his/her own bed?

Our babies sleep with us until they begin to turn sideways in the bed and prop their little feet up on Daddy’s nose.  They ALL did this, and he finds it offensive.  When they can’t keep their feet off Daddy’s nose, we begin shifting them to other locations- usually with a sibling.  It’s quite safe, since by then they are six years old.  I jest. Mostly.  One of them was in her own bed after just a few months because she wanted to be there.  Our son was still with us until after he was two.  Some of them started out in their own beds somewhere between one and two, but ended in ours by 3 in the morning.  That was fine with us.  We like the family bed and we loathe the cry it out method.  I mean, I really, really, really hate it.  More here.

If possible, I pick up my babies when they cry. I don’t manufacture excuses for my babies to cry, and I don’t kill myself or risk their lives trying to prevent them from crying when they begin to cry while I am in the midst of something it would be best to finish, either.  That works with my parenting philosophy.


  • Mud management advice? 3 boys who love to play in the mud – I’d like to hear how other moms set limits and confine the mess, or not

Muddy Boy

  • As you see, for us, it’s mostly…. not.

However, there are a few things I try to do:

Require old towels and a laundry basket near the door, maybe even a change of clothes.

Teach them to walk from the door to the bathroom by shuffling along on one of those old towels.

Clothes go immediately into the washing machine.

Require that they assist in cleaning the bathroom after the mud bath and mud tracks through the house.  It doesn’t matter if their help is not that helpful in the here and now. It will be beneficial to you all later.  This is NOT punishment.  It’s courtesy.  It’s also teaching.  The thing is that if they are invested in taking care of the consequences of their choices, then they will also be invested in lightening the burden of those consequences- they will think of solutions of their own.

We also do require hosing off as much as possible outside before coming back into the house.

random family friend

  • How do you deal with tattling? How do teach your kids when its ok to tell on someone or not. I want to know when someone is doing something seriously wrong or something dangerous but I don’t want the constant tattling over silly little things. They can’t seem to tell the difference.

I discussed our views on tattling here.  

This is just a funny story about tattling.

And here’s another one.

  • how do you handle nap time? Next fall I will have a 2 yr old, 2 one yr olds, and a newborn, plus three preschoolers who don’t nap but have quiet time. I am rapidly running out of rooms/closets to put sleeping babies in. Have any of you trained kids to nap in the same room?

Yes, I have trained kids to nap and take quiet time in the same room, although they were all over 2 when I did it.  I would be tempted with children as young as all of yours just to snuggle up with them and all take naps together in my bed or on blankets on the floor like a litter of puppies.  Assuming the one year olds are twins, it might be easiest not to separate them.  And if your kids do fine sleeping together, I wouldn’t change that just yet.

What seemed to work best for us was to arrange things so that eye contact was not an easy thing.  Use a screen.  Set sleeping mats or pads on the floor on opposite sides of a bed or couch so they can’t see each other.  Use an easy chair and turn it around so it faces the wall and let somebody curl up for quiet time there.  If you use a crib or playpen, put a towel or blanket over the side to block the view of the other siblings.  Turn two dining room chairs back to back, stretch a jump-rope between them, and clothespin a sheet over the rope to create a screen (after the nap they can use it for a puppet theater or a tent).  The hardest part of training is now, but if you do not grow weary and give up at this time, you will reap rich rewards in just a couple more years.

More about how quiet time worked for our family here.

  • how do you deal with the barrage of ‘tips’ that can so often come across – at least to the recipient – as criticism of your parenting? Especially when it’s from family members who you love and respect? How do you kindly stop repetitive and unwanted ‘advice’ without pushing loved ones away? I’m a first-time parent, so I’m usually happy to hear any ideas. But I occasionally feel disrespected in my decisions or that others assume I’m clueless when it comes to my own kid.

Mostly, smile and change the subject.

I do think it’s more important not to push the loved ones away than to deflect unwanted advice, so if you have to choose, choose to humble yourself and just accept the unwanted advice from the loved ones.  You are generally right about this being a hazard of new motherhood, so bear in mind it will get better.  Well, in truth, it will get better unless you have a disabled child, and then it will never end.

We have a disabled child- We adopted her and her biological sister when she was nearly 6 and we already had three children.  A surprising number of people are so very sure that _they_ can spend five minutes with my child and then become experts about her condition, but I, who live with her 24 and 7 and am only her mother, am an ignoramus. Well, they may be right about me being an idiot, but I am still an idiot who knows more about my daughter than perfect strangers.  For instance….


Visit the other Four Moms and see what they have to say!

Life in a Shoe

Kim at Life in a Shoe, homeschool grad, mama to a family of 13



raising olives button Raising Olives, married 15 years, mama to 11, homeschooling graduate herself-  She’s taking a break from the Four Moms for a bit- joining us once a month for a q and A post.  The rest of us are taking a break by switching to all Q and A, at least for a while. Connie at Smockity Frocks, married 25 years, mom to 8. We were blog buddies for a year or two before we realized that we had very dear mutual friends in real life. How cool is that?!
Me, DeputyHeadmistress and former Zookeeper (I gave up keeping a zoo when coyotes and coons killed our chickens) of this blog, The Common Room and our cooking blog, The Common Kitchen; married 30 years, mom to seven plus unofficial foster mom to two little boys, Mama-in-Law to two, and Grandmama to five blessings under 3, and yes we are very proud.=)

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  1. emily
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to comment on babies sleeping. She asks specifically about babies who have days and nights confused. Both my infants did this, and somewhere around 4 to 6 weeks old we began waking the baby during the day and keeping her up longer. She napped during the day but instead of 4 hour stretches and half an hour awake we pushed her to 2 hours sleep then waking her and an hour or so awake. It was a long and hard week, baby was tired, i was tired, but with lots of love and hugs, within 7 days, she had switched day and night the right way around and figured out that day is for play and night is for longer sleeps. Its so worth it.

  2. Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Not really a comment but more a query. For about three months now, I have been unable to read any of Smockity’s posts. I can type in URL or go from a link. Nothing except the yellow page and occasionally a post title. Clicking on that just give me the same result. I’m in Australia. Has she changed settings perhaps ?

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