busyfamilyLiving with kids is inherently chaotic. Children are messy, uncoordinated, and excitable, and need your help to do almost everything. For an illustration of exactly what we’re talking about, just connect the dots below to reveal a picture of what a particularly crazy morning might look like at your family’s house:


After you finish connecting the dots, you might be faced with something like this:

Looks messy, huh?

If it also looks familiar, then now might be a good time to make sure you’re keeping your household’s kid-induced chaos level in check. And there’s a really great reason to do so.

Researchers at the University of Louisville, Columbia University, New York University and Virginia Polytechic Institute studying the effect of household chaos—defined by disorganization, lack of routine, excessive noise, crowdedness, lots of coming and going, or an overly fast pace—have found that that the more chaotic a family’s life is, the more likely their children are to encounter a number of issues, including:

  • smaller vocabularies and lower IQs
  • higher levels of attention, aggression and conduct problems
  • delay-of-gratification limitations
  • more stress
  • poorer and less consistent sleep patterns
  • less positive relationships with parents and siblings
  • worse overall health

Household chaos is so detrimental to kids that even the best parenting practices can’t overcome its effects. Multiple studies have shown that chaos leads to negative outcomes for kids, no matter what your parenting style is, how much money your family may have, or what your kids’ personalities are like. That means that chaos can happen in any home—even if you’re doing everything else right!

How can you tell if your house is too chaotic?
If you have kids, some level of household craziness is completely normal. But how much is too much? Here’s a collection of actual statements used by researchers to determine just how chaotic peoples homes are. Ask yourself how much you agree with each of the following—completely, not at all, or somewhere in between:

  • There is very little commotion in our home.
  • We can usually find things when we need them.
  • No matter how hard we try, we always seem to be running late.
  • It’s a real zoo in our home.
  • At home we can talk to each other without being interrupted.
  • There is often a fuss going on in our home.
  • No matter what our family plans, they usually don’t work out.
  • I often get drawn into other people’s arguments at home.
  • Our home is a good place to relax.
  • First thing in the day, we have a regular routine at home.

You can probably figure out which answers above point to potential chaos problems. If you can’t figure it out because you’re too busy putting out figurative and/or literal fires in your family room, you definitely have some issues to work on!

How can you fix household chaos problems?
If you think your home may be a little too chaotic for comfort, it’s easy to improve your situation ASAP!

By replacing chaos with calmer, more structured family time, you can experience more positive family interactions, better opportunities for making happy family memories, and benefits to your child’s social and emotional development. Here are five simple ways to get started:

  1. Be a little boring
    Design a basic structure for your family’s day, complete with predictable, regular times for you to do normal, everyday stuff—like getting ready for the day, doing homework, sitting down with the whole family for dinner, and getting ready for bed. Having a set of activities everyone can count on will help you and your child meet daily challenges and free you up for more leisure time.
  2. Slow down
    Have extracurricular activities overtaken your family? Avoid overscheduling, and you’ll gain more opportunities to make memories together as a family.
  3. Get personal
    Recognize that not every family’s routines are the same. Think about what kinds of routines would be most effective at leading to productive and rewarding interactions for your family.
  4. Prioritize
    When trying to organize a particularly chaotic home life, start with small, manageable goals. Consider which changes would benefit your family the most and attack them first. Is your house always too loud for anybody to think? Try instituting set times for noisy activities like watching TV, playing games or banging away at that drum set Grandma so thoughtfully got for your little one’s birthday. After you’ve successfully made a change or two (and your house has started becoming less chaotic as a result), you’ll probably find future changes become easier to implement.
  5. Chart your progress
    Try giving your kids a personalized checklist of the things they’re responsible for doing before school or at bedtime. Seeing the physical schedule in front of them will help them remember everything they’re supposed to do—and being able to check off each item as they get things done throughout the day can make it more fun, too!

Which steps do you plan to take to decrease the chaos in your house?

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  • purplebouquet

    Thanks for this article. I don’t know anybody who genuinely enjoys a chaotic household, but many families seem to be resigned to it until the children leave for college.
    I’d like to add a couple of things: Children don’t learn necessarily by watching, they need to be taught. Expecting our son to know how to wash dishes just because he had seen me and my husband do them every night was wrong; we had to show, explain and then supervise him a few times before he knew what to do, and that applied to most chores and behaviors we wanted him and his sister to learn.
    The other key to a manageable house is the idea of consequences. Children need to realize that their decisions result in consequences. That means that parents need to inform them upfront that x will result in z and follow through. Rather than asking my children to clean up their room (after we had taught them how to do so), then asking again and again und ultimately yelling at them to do so, I said: “You need to clean up your room by 4 p.m. If you don’t, I will do it for you, but then I won’t have time (or inclination) to take you to ballet class or your friend’s house or the mall, etc.” And then follow through. Careful: Don’t promise consequences you can’t implement!

    • TheDoctorAndTheDad

      Nice additions, purplebouquet! We completely agree, especially with the need to follow through on giving your kids consequences. Kids are quick learners, whether you’re teaching them how to wash dishes OR teaching them that all your threats are empty ones. So if you want them to listen to you in the future, make sure your words ring true today!

      • Nikki Lynn

        So I have a couple questions as I’m screaming for help and I’m a mother of three. my 9 year old is adhd and also seems to never get it when I talk to him nor listen, I feel its… more like, he makes chaos purposely knowing his consequence with my 3yr and my house turns into a zoo, I can’t seem to get anyone of there attention. Any advice?