How to Get (and Keep) Your Family Out Of a Rut

“When you’re in a slump you’re not in for much fun. 
Unslumping yourself is not easily done.” – Dr. Seuss

Ruts come in all shapes and sizes. This morning, mine was in the shape of a pile of kids who awoke screaming and bickering at each other. It’s been one week since school ended, but that’s plenty of time for a rut to form and bad habits to begin to entrench in all of us.

How do we get out of a rut… and even better, rut-proof ourselves and families this summer?

Change It Up
Ruts happen when we do the same thing over and over again – whether it’s a thought pattern, a physical habit, words we say when someone else says a certain thing to us. My kids and I tend toward the rut of grumpiness in the morning, so I intentionally change things to prevent that. One day the kids come down to cheerful music, another day they arrive to a fancy-set table, and yet another, we have all-green (or some other color) foods for breakfast. It keeps them guessing, and using my creativity keeps me out of a rut too!

Play More
The family that plays together employs one of life’s best anti-rut tools. Psychology Today says it this way: “Most of us think of adult play as respite or indulgence, but having fun is no trivial pursuit. In fact, it’s crucial to put mental creativity, health and happiness.” So plan play time – unstructured, active, creative time – into your day every day. Play board games, hide and seek, frisbee, MadLibs, cribbage… whatever playing your family enjoys most. The more you play together, the more your family creates and laughs together, and the less chance you have of falling into a rut.

Open Your Eyes
When we walk through life half-asleep to the world around us, we tread a pretty deep rut in the road we’re walking. Open your eyes! Notice things. Help your kids see the colors, the sounds, the wildlife, the people, the blessings, the things they can be thankful for. The more of life you notice and choose to be grateful for, the less of it you’ll spend digging you and the family out of a rut. I do this every day with my kids. They start to bicker and I just start telling them what I’m thankful for, or how much I like their hairdo that day, or what a beautiful sky there is outside. The bickering rut is far less interesting to them when we help them see the world around them again.

Celebrate Good Habits
Just because a rut is a bad habit doesn’t mean all habits are bad. If you consistently eat healthy food for breakfast, that’s a good habit. Having dessert after every meal isn’t. What habits do you value in your life? Which ones are helpful to your kids? Celebrate those together. Notice when your daughter has good study skills and heads to the same spot to do her homework every day. Cherish that your toddler wants to hug and kiss you every night before bed. Enjoy the habits in your life and family that build each other up. What you feed in your life will bring more of the same, after all. So feed the good habits just as much as you battle the rut-building bad ones.

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Your friend in rut-busting,

Need a little help to get out of a rut? Know someone else who does? Email me for more information on coaching to get unstuck and move past limiting habits in your life!

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  1. says

    SO helpful for me right now! My husband and I have been married 2 1/2 years, and we haven't been blessed with children yet. These ruts you're talking about creep up on our little family, and we're not always successful in climbing out of them! Thanks for the tips =)

  2. says

    @Tremaine Family – That's a tough place to be. Change is hard on everyone. You're going through it, your family is. And the kids have fewer words to explain what they're struggling with. My older girls had a lot of aggressive behaviors due to grief and loss when they came to live with us. Have you found any good resources for helping a child grieve change/loss? I wrote a post this week for another site that might be helpful for this:

  3. says

    We are not in a rut but we did just come through a lot of change! We moved 1800 miles. I know I am not alone but I feel so alone! Now my toddler son is having some anger issues and I am at a lose about what to do! He is find with older children but when he is around his 1 year old cousin he is down right mean. I just don't know what to do or where to go to look for what to do? I wish I could wave a wand and everything would go back to normal whatever that is!

  4. says

    Very helpful ideas today Laurie. Stomach flu has taken us down this week and it's been getting ugly at our house. Thanks for the fresh perspective!