Group Discussion: How Do You Manage Your Kids in the Summer?

As I watched my girls leave for the bus this morning looking weary and worn out, all I could think was, “same, kids, same.” I’m tired. I can feel it in my bones when I fall into bed at night. We all need a break, a second to recharge and regain our footing.

The school year is hard on everyone. This year especially, we’ve had to make some big adjustments since becoming a family of five in December. 

We were as prepared as two people could be to have a baby. What we were not prepared for, what we never considered, was how exhausting it was going to be to blend the needs of a baby with the big, full lives of a 12 and 9-year-old. The last five months have been pure insanity.

So I welcome the summer months with their slightly less stressful mornings and relaxed schedules. I am trying to create a routine that gives everyone a little more margin (including myself), and an opportunity to chill out and relax guilt free.

As modern parents, though, we know the challenge is finding the sweet spot between keeping the kids active (I don’t want them spending hours in their rec room playing video games) without over scheduling them. And doing all this while working full time, trying to stay healthy, and maintaining some semblance of a social life can feel impossible. 

The Good Old Days

I grew up a happy city kid. My summers were spent swimming in the public pool across the street from my house, playing kick-the-can with the kids on my block, and riding my bike around the neighborhood with the one rule being I had to be home when the street lights came on.

There was no summer camp at our country club or rigorous schedule of activities. Playdates weren’t a thing. If you wanted to play with your friend, you “knocked” for them. You just walked to their house and knocked on their door. If they were home, cool, if they weren’t that was cool too, you’d try someone else. It was an easy, fun, and carefree time. 

My kid’s lives often feel so foreign to me. I’m aware of how drastically things have changed, and some of those changes are good. It’s progress. We’re really living the dream of each generation doing a little better than the last. But I also realize the importance of incorporating some of the innocence I experienced into their very big, hectic, privileged lives.

So we came up with a few guidelines for the summer to try to keep our sanity, while maintaining a regular work schedule, and hopefully keep our kids grounded and humble.

Our Family Rules for a Stress Free Summer 

Our Family Rules for a Stress Free Summer

1. You Have to Do Chores Before Anything Else

We don’t give our kids an allowance. We’re paying tuition; we’re saving for college, they get everything they need and a lot of what they want, they enjoy healthy meals and lovely vacations. Their lives are downright magical.

Why would I also give them cash every week? In our opinion, there are other ways to teach financial literacy. So chores are something they have to do because we are a family and this is part of the deal.

If they want to have a fun-filled day, they have to do their chores, which include making their beds, clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, putting their toys away and laundry … all the dreaded laundry.

The other day, we gave them a small basket of clean laundry to sort, fold, and put away. It should have taken them 20 minutes. It took them FOUR HOURS because they wouldn’t stop bickering and messing around. I think that was part of their strategy and were shocked when I didn’t help them. When they realized their friends were outside playing without them, they knew we meant business.

2. Lose Your Manners Lose Your Privileges

At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, kids these days are so fresh. I hear some of my daughter’s friends talk to their parents, and I want to send them for a week of manners boot camp with my mother. I wouldn’t be here on Earth breathing if I EVER spoke to my parents with that level of disrespect.

So when my girls try out some of this attitude on me or my husband, we have a two strikes you’re out policy. You get one warning to reign it in; then you’re done. Sass, back talk, sighs, eye rolls, will get you nowhere. We’ve already cancel plans they were looking forward to, unplugged and removed the Xbox for a week, and put them to bed at a ridiculously early time. Their lives are too blessed, and we work too hard to have to deal with ill-mannered kids.

3. Do Not Tell Us You’re Bored

If you tell us you’re bored we’ll make you do yard work.  And there’s lots to do.

4.  We’re Not Your Entertainment

I’m not concerned about entertaining my kids 24 hours a day.  Unscheduled time is a good thing, given how hectic their lives are during the school year.  Sure, we do a camp for a few weeks and plan some trips as a family, but if they don’t have something “to do,” we don’t stress out.  You can’t use your imagination or rest your brain if your schedule is never-ending. And if they end up having a day when they are flat out bored, that’s ok too.

5. Do One Act of Kindness a Week

I don’t care what it is, but they need to something that’s not about them. Sometimes it’s writing a sweet note to a friend, or doing something kind for each other. They’ve raised money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, collected cans for the local food bank, donated some of their toys, and bought school supplies for schools and kids in need. We want them to realize the world doesn’t revolve around them and hopefully start a habit they carry the rest of their lives.

6. You Have to Ask for Screen Time

They have to ask permission to play video games, use their tablets, or go on their phone. I want to know when they are on it, and what they are playing but I don’t freak out over screen time. They swim and run and play sports all day long. Maddie is going into seventh grade and reads at a 12th-grade level; she’s up to all night reading. I’m not going to knock them for wanting to veg out for a while, especially since I love a little veg time too (hello, Bravo TV).

Our goal is to make sure it’s not the first and only thing they do. We don’t let them waste a beautiful day playing Minecraft, but I’ve found the less we make a big deal about it, the less they focus on it.

7. A Little Summer School Work Every Week

Our kids are sent home for the summer with math and reading assignments due the first week of the new school year. Doing an hour or two of homework every week is the only way to make sure they get it all done without having a manic rush the week before school starts. They meet with their math teacher once a week to help with their assignments (mostly because Bri and I don’t understand “new math”) and have to spend an hour on Friday mornings working on their projects, after chores, but before they can go out. We started this last summer, and it’s made all the difference in the world.


I’d love to know how are you managing your summer schedule with kids?  Whether you have kids similar in age to mine, or have already raised your family, what worked for you and your family?

17 thoughts on “Group Discussion: How Do You Manage Your Kids in the Summer?”

  1. My boys are 11 and 13. We have mostly the same
    Rules for summer except we Homeschool through the year and I don’t require summer school work. We all need a break from school! It’s so good that kids aren’t entertained all summer! And yes, screen time around our home is minimal and my boys have to ask/ earn it. So sad how many kids spend their summers in front of a screen. My boys spend hours folding clothes as well. At least they are busy and the clothes get folded ?

  2. I love your family rules for a stress-free summer; those probably help everyone stay sane! I love the “you’re bored? Try yardwork” suggestion. We have three kids (age 18 months, 3.5, and 6) so I don’t have a lot of “school’s out, now what?” experience. Personally I find it challenging to treat the kids consistently, and treat them fairly (1, 3, 6) – for example, the 6-yr-old is capable of chores (plus, she’s the only girl, and….well, I just expect more from her! Totally unfair but true). I definitely need some ideas for easy, safe chores that they can all take part in, if only as punishment or character building. Ha! I will say that what works for us as a family (who hasn’t yet reached the phase where sports and social outings take over the kids’ lives) is that we try to be OUTDOORS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE every day because the kids are always, always much better behaved outside for some magical reason that only Mother Nature understands. Thanks for these tips – great advice for now and the summers ahead!

  3. This is such a great post! This is exactly how I want the summers to go when my kids are older. I fear that “kids these days” don’t have much of an imagination, and these are great tips to help foster that. I also don’t want to be aslave to my kids’ schedules. I need down time too, and going to a play date every single weekend to hang out with a mom I barely know sounds like torture to me. It has to be OK to say “no” and “figure it out yourself” to your kids sometimes without the guilt

  4. I like this list-and will use that as we plan our summer. We do many of the same-we are thinking of having a set bedtime though to be sure we get some quiet time as parents. My girls are 9 and 13. WE also like to fit in weekly library trips, pet responsibilities, and volunteering. Thank you!

  5. what a brilliant post. I hear you and feel everything you said. well done, sounds like you are doing a fabulous job raising some very good humans for our future. we have an 11.5 year old boy who is very challenging at times with not doing chores, being cheeky and too much screen time. i agree on not giving an allowance and having to do chores without pay either, as well as lose your manners lose your privileges! thank you so much for sharing and i wish you and your family a happy, fun filled and safe summer.

    • Thank you! And trust me my older girls certainly have their challenging moments (days? weeks? lol) The hardest part I find is standing your ground as a parent, right? But the more we do it the better it is for everyone. Enjoy the summer!

  6. My kids are 4 and 6. They have a list of things they are to do before they are allowed electronics. This list includes anything from brushing their teeth, to cleaning one room on the house, helping a family member, 20 minutes of reading, etc. They absolutely hate the list and yesterday was the first time in 2 weeks they actually finished the entire thing. They got a whole 20 minutes on the tablets and that’s it. However, since they haven’t been wanting to do the list, they have actually been playing with their toys and making up new games and that’s what they really need at this age. Manners are also big here. You start yelling at me, you’re going to get sent to your room. If you continue to be rude and not listen, you’ll get privileges taken away. (Electronics, special outings, dessert)

  7. You would be surprised what your 3 and 6 year old are capable of. My 6 year old folds and puts away his laundry, wipes the table down after ever meal (will be giving the 4 year old this job), he cleans his room of which I have a list he follows to ensure it’s cleaned properly, and he helps vacuum. My 4 year old puts his clothes away, helps sweep, helps cook, helps brother clean a room up, and helps me with laundry.

    • I agree. When my girls were little we made chores a game so they started to get used to doing them. Now that they are older (my oldest two are 12 and 9) it’s nice that they can do things independently. Only now they don’t see it as a game anymore 🙂

  8. Enjoy so much your practical advice. I’m grandma now but still useful when spending time with the grandkids. Ppl who overschedule drive me crazy! Where is the kids’ childhoods in all of that? The parents seem so proud of having kids constantly on the go. Being a baby boomer, I wish these kids had my childhood fun. We live on working farm which I feel very blessed. Our kids didn’t ask for much and enjoyed outdoors and animals and learned there is a lot of work in life but a lot of fun too.
    Thanks for your insightful posts.

  9. Hats off to today’s moms! Your rules sound great! I find your advice well-thought out and reasonable. Thanks for sharing! My kids now have kids. I’ll share your advice with them.

  10. I am forwarding this post to my daughter. You have great ideas for your kids summer. Things have changed, but disrespect is not an accepted behavior in my home. That attitude will carry you thru life and that is part of the problem we have in the world today. Yeppers I am sounding old, but is it really too much to ask of any of us? Again, great message today.

  11. yes, standing our ground is hard when you are tired and just want to give in and not argue or repeat the reasons behind your decisions for the hundredth time. I was once told by a friend who used a method called asked and answered. it was most effective when Hayden was small and still has some effect today. Basically they ask you something and you give your answer and reason. if they ask again (or should i say when they ask again as they usually do) you ask them to repeat back to you what you just said and then you reply “asked and answered!” Most cases it works and stops them pestering you. saying “how many more times must i tell you?” is very ineffective as the sass will come out of them with a smart comment like “20”.

  12. At the beginning of summer we made a big poster listing ‘fun things to do’. All the kids had input. Then on those inevitable days when boredom set in we would go look at the poster for ideas.


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