With near certainty I can say that when Dwight Eisenhower made popular this phrase, he was not thinking at all about parenthood. But parents everywhere could probably discuss the finer points of strategizing with the likes of Ike.

When you wake up on a weekday morning, how many “to dos” do you go through? I have to pay that bill. I have to get the kids dressed and fed plus it’s “share day” at school! What are they going to bring? Did they finish that homework for today? Are we out of milk? What am I going to make for dinner? My daughter has soccer tonight, doesn’t she? Is today the day that I have to lead that meeting at work?

For parents everywhere, everyday seems to be a juggling act. Whether you enjoy the high energy of all these plans or dread the busyness, chances are, you do plenty of planning to keep life on track for you and your family. As parents know, on any given day, you may not achieve all of the goals or plans that you set out for yourself and your family.

One of the most important aspects of planning is preparing yourself and your family for the things to come. It’s not enough for you to have a series of steps in your head that you will all need to follow. When you add kids to the mix, you need to prepare them and think of the steps that they might need to hear in order to achieve their goal. If you’d like for all homework to be done (cheerfully) before you make an afternoon trip to the grocery store to get those missing ingredients for dinner, then you had better start planning how to make that happen. And you should consider the possibility that this plan might not go exactly as you…planned. It’s the preparing that is important.

So, the plan is to get homework done + go to the store with the kids. Ack! But what does planning and preparing for that look like?

  1. What is the homework? If you don’t know, you might want to check before you call everybody to the table to do it. Some of it might be a breeze or it might be the subject that tends to be a daily struggle. Knowing that helps you plan the next step.
  2. How much time will homework get? If it’s necessary that you go to the store before dinner, then you need to choose a time to leave no matter whether homework is done or not.
  3. Before you call “Homework time!” you need to decide how you’re going to explain/incentivize the time limit for this homework session. Maybe your pitch is that if all homework is done before going to the store at ___ o’clock, then they get to play outside before dinner or have an extra 15 minutes of computer before bed.
  4. What’s your response? Before you call them in, think about what your response will be to “But I don’t want to do my homework now!” If you are faced with exasperation, whining or outright defiance, what are you going to do to try to keep this plan intact? Make sure that you are armed with enforceable consequences. Don’t “threaten” them straight away. But don’t wait too long to mention them if attitudes are really poor. Maybe your consequences are simply the opposites of your incentives? Whatever they are, have them at the ready & let your kids choose whether they will do their homework with a moderately good attitude or if they’ll receive a consequence.
  5. Make it a clear call to action. “Time for homework (and a snack?)!”
  6. Help. Be available if help is needed or set a timer for yourself to come back and check on progress.
  7. Keep Time. Be a timekeeper yourself, reminding them how much time they have until they have to get ready to go.
  8. Good work! Praise good attitudes, perseverance & good work as they go along.
  9. Use that moment for YOU. Get yourself ready while they work. Make your list and check it twice!
  10. Be reasonable. Give them enough reasonable time to clean up their work, go to the bathroom, put on shoes, etc. before you go.
  11. Praise! Praise on the way out the door for anything that you saw going right. Encourage continued cooperation while out in public. You might also incentivize the grocery store if nobody is excited about it. Maybe the kids get to pick one treat each to buy. Plus don’t forget to let them help where they can & continue to praise!
  12. Stick to the plan. Try not to add extra stops while out.
  13. Prep is everything. On the way home, prepare them for what awaits them. This might be unfinished homework that can be worked on while you prepare dinner. This might be their opportunity to play outside! It might be the consequence that they chose by not listening. Whatever it is, positive or negative, remind them that it’s coming! And praise the “good outcomes” while not judging the bad ones. Don’t make them pay twice, with a consequence and a guilt trip from you.
  14. Do what you say. Follow through once home!

There could very easily be more planning that goes into this. Try to remember to build in flexibility and to forgive yourself if the plan itself does not come off as you’d hoped. I know that it takes a lot of mental energy to plan for different situations and outcomes, but hopefully if you get into a groove of planning things out, you’ll save yourself and your kids some tears, frustration and heartache as you move through the days together.