Run your family like a boss
Applying some ideas from your work environment at home can have some great results.

When you’re young and child-free, you dreamily and somewhat obliviously fantasise about your future family. I imagined three, maybe four children, all of us around the dinner table, sharing jokes and gently teasing one another. We’d be like those stock photos of families with fabulous teeth who find their food hilarious.

Flash forward to now, with three kids ranging in age from nine to 16, and the reality is somewhat messier than I’d imagined. Dinner times are rarely idyllic. Breakfast time is often sullen and rushed and evenings are a blur of homework and panicked requests for cotton wool and polystyrene for projects.

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The fact is that family life can be chaotic. I often say I go to work to rest. I think the reason is that work is controlled and regimented. Home life, not so much.

With that in mind, I’ve applied some basic ideas from the work environment to see if I can make family life a little less disorganised.

1. Be the boss

My children would forget to breathe if I didn’t remind them. “Mom, where are my...?”; “Mom, how do I...?”; “Mom, where does this go?” are common refrains in my house. They like to know that someone is in control of their life. This scenario is the perfect reason to be the boss of the family.

Delegate to them, remind and manage them, and schedule them. Ensure that they’re motivated to perform well. Remember, though, that a good manager doesn’t do everything for her employees. She empowers them to do things for themselves and learn through their mistakes.

2. Teamwork

Be a team as a family: everyone pulls their weight and pitches in. Being part of a team enables us to get tasks accomplished faster. A team with members who have diverse skills allows you to accomplish some things that you wouldn’t have been able to do on your own. Have someone in your family who loves cooking? Make him head chef and get the rest of the team to do the washing up. Someone who’s great at DIY? Put her in charge of changing the light bulbs while another team member holds the ladder.

3. Communication

Being in a team means that you have to communicate constantly. Remember that communication involves both talking and listening. In my house, this translates to regular check-ins with my kids. Did Kid1 just lose it over something trivial? Time for a chat about what’s behind it. Kid3 particularly teary tonight? Time to check in with him about how his day went and whether he’s perhaps coming down with something.

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Team leaders (i.e. – parents) should also check and re-check members’ needs regarding projects or homework assignments, and whether anything in their schedules has changed. My worst is when a team member comes to me at 6.15am to inform me he needs three corks, two skewer sticks, and a length of string for a Technology project. Communication and planning is essential.

4. Scheduling and prioritising

While we’re on the topic of planning: We don’t think twice about scheduling tasks at work, so why not at home? As “the boss” in our house, all schedules and reminders go onto my electronic calendar. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 10am meeting with my boss, a 6pm meeting with the teacher, or a reminder to fetch Kid2 from string ensemble practice. It’s all there. And notices and school letters are dealt with the night before school. If I only see it in the morning, it’s invisible to me. You snooze, you lose.

5. If it works at work, it could work at home

I think it’s clear that some of the fundamental concepts that we take for granted at work could benefit us in taming the chaos at home. I’m off right now to delegate some tasks to my team members...

How do you manage your household? Send us an email to and tell us your tips for effectively managing your kids.

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