Monthly review November – 3 family life hacks for greater harmony

Each month I review my progress (or lack of!) towards my personal goals for 2014. You can see my full goal list in this post here – Goal Setting For 2014 And Creating My Decision Making Framework. The monthly review will look at my key learnings for the month and each quarter I write a full review of my progress. This month the focus is on my goal to increase family harmony.


I love November. It brings with it warmer weather and a hint of the summer holidays – so much to like about that. November is a month packed with exams, birthdays, end of season celebrations and this year the launch of the PWK calendar.

With all that action in a short period of time, family harmony can and did ebb and flow. It is very easy to tell when family harmony is lacking in our house; there are too many loud voices, too much whining and too much nagging by me.

Through out November I employed some

1. Instigate dinner table conversation

Most week nights Mr I isn’t with us for dinner, but the rest of us eat together. Regardless of how scratchy we may have all been at the start of dinner, I work hard to engage everyone in conversation as we eat. Sometimes it takes a while for it to get going, but most nights we are all still seated and chatting after we have finished eating. Leaving a meal on this note changes the mood of the house and kick starts a calm approach to the bath, story time, bed time process.

But it doesn’t just happen without effort. There are some nights when I don’t feel like talking to any of the kids at dinner and some nights I struggle to maintain civil conversation with a child or two who may have been pushing my buttons. Initiating dinner time conversation in the right tone is one of those times when I need to really lead the family to create greater harmony.

2. Actively listen

When there is a lot going on, it is easy to just hear the words the kids say, but not really listen. I might make vague responses to show I heard what they said, but I didn’t really actively listen. When one child comes to complain about one of their siblings, it is so tempting to just brush them off,  but when I do this, it is never the end of the issue. They don’t feel adequately acknowledged, will head back to the scene of the crime and often attempt their own justice!

Sometimes when the kids come to tell me their woes, they really just want me to listen to them. For the younger ones, it maybe to rub the arm that has been hurt or to help them find something else to do, so they can keep out of the way of the sibling they are fighting with. By spending the minute or two it takes to face the child or bend down to the younger ones and actively listen to what they are saying, I can prevent issues from escalating and I am showing the kids that I am present.

3. Ask for help instead of complaining

When I walk into the house to find it a disaster zone and the kids lying around not doing much, my first reaction can often be to start complaining to them about what they haven’t done and how annoying I have found their lack of effort. When I do this, the result is never great. The older kids feel attacked, become defensive and will do the bare minimum work to get things sorted.

If however, I can take a couple of minutes to internally refocus my complaining and speak calmly to the kids to engage their co-operation the outcome is quite different. I will ask them to all come to one room and explain that as we have all made this mess, we all need to clean it up. I will assign them all tasks and let them know what I am going to do. They may still do the bare minimum to get things tidied up, but at least they are doing it with less antagonism towards me and each other.

How was your November?