Four Great Ways to Control Family Chaos

So, it’s pelican time here in northeast Oklahoma. Grand Lake is covered with the huge white birds. Flocks of them wheel across the sky, landing on the water, diving to score scrumptious fish. Any time in the month of October, they can be spotted soaring over our green hills and valleys. They’re quite beautiful, their white wings edged in black paint, stark against the clear blue sky.

Normally they fly in gorgeous, precise vees, winging their way south. This, apparently, is a great way for birds to travel. The leader takes the brunt of the air resistance, creating a slipstream that eases the way for the birds that follow. As they fly, they rotate positions so no one bird is always breaking the wind. Other times, they move in flocks, sweeping back and forth in orderly motion. Either way, they’re breathtaking.

But they don’t always behave how we’d expect. A couple days ago, when I picked my kiddos up from school, half the students stood outside, staring up at the sky. Hundreds of pelicans flew overhead, in chaotic paths, with no visible rhythm or coordination. They looked more like a frenzy of bats exploding from a cave than the graceful avians that usually fly formation across our October sky.

And it got me thinking. There’s a strange likeness between my family and the pelicans (no, it’s not the beak). Sometimes my home runs smoothly, with my husband or me leading our fledglings in a graceful dance through school, chores, church, community. Sometimes we even let them lead, just for the practice (not to mention a much needed break for us!). At other times, all hell breaks loose and we are more like the crazy, chaotic flock I saw that afternoon. Lost shoes, forgotten homework, urgent papers to sign, five bucks here, another three there…right now, right now, right now!! An orderly day dissolves into turmoil.

After some consideration, I came up a few tips that help me prevent the chaos and regain my balance after it (inevitably) descends.

Pre-flight checklist

The Night Before

Gather them in: Encourage everyone to collect their backpacks, shoes, instruments, etc. Choose tomorrow’s outfit. This saves a few precious minutes in the morning and can prevent fashion-related meltdowns (not that I’ve ever had one of those myself *furtive glance*).

What’s the plan? Shortly before bedtime, remind the family of the next day’s activities. Coordinate who is picking up who where—very important in large flocks like mine where we also have a teenage driver.

Managing Mornings

Meaningful Moment: Rise a little early so your family has time for a meaningful moment. We do a 5-10 minute family worship each morning at 645. This typically involves Bible stories or scripture reading. We’ve been doing this for about 12 years and have seen a huge improvement in our family unity. Adapt this to meet your family’s needs.

Feed the monsters: There’s a lot of ways to do this. Several of my kids eat at school while the others have band practice. For those needing to eat at home, I keep quick breakfasts on hand—bagels, fruit, oatmeal, cold cereals. I might confess to providing poptarts—just don’t tell the PTA! For our family, Saturday mornings are the best time for homemade breakfasts.

Avert last-minute disasters: Keep jackets, hats, gloves, umbrellas, hair-ties, and extra socks (we always are losing socks!) in an easy-access area so they can be grabbed on the way out the door.

Give ‘em love: Life is tough in the big, bad world of school. Deadlines, testing, bullies, and unreliable friends are just a few of the stressors facing our sweethearts. They need a safe haven and the constant assurance that they are loved at home.

Regain Sanity

Meditation. After the kiddos are off to school, I take a jog (my form of meditation). Some days I work out before they leave. Either way, I feel better physically and mentally. That makes me a better mom and leader.

Music. On days when I need to rush off to work, I queue up my favorite songs on my phone and unwind during the drive.

Mmmm… A cup of hot herbal tea soothes my spirit after a hectic morning. Hot chocolate works even better, but I gotta limit those!

Afternoon Rush

Munchies. Need I say more?

Pushing Papers. As soon as the kids return home, or as soon as possible, sort through papers, sign important stuff, get homework started.

Even with careful preparation, raising a busy family is often hectic. But a little extra planning and a hefty dose of patience can smooth the way for teamwork, cooperation, and lots of smiling faces. Happy flying!

What are some of your tips for keeping your family life running smoothly or recouping from an off-kilter experience?

  • George McPhee


    Bravo! Your family certainly reflects what a great job Matt, and especially YOU are doing. You’re also a darned good writer. Toni and I are so glad to know you all.


    • RHRoberts

      Thanks so much, George! I love that kind of feedback! Matt and I sure think highly of you and Toni, too!

  • Rebecca Welling

    Great advice. You are an inspiration

    • RHRoberts

      Thanks Rebecca! So are you. I remember watching you raise your kids, especially the triplets, and trying to learn everything I could from you!

  • Dad

    Good Job Sweetie! Keep those frenzied bats at bay!

    • RHRoberts

      That’s the biggest challenge, no doubt!