How to Put an End to Bickering Over Family ActivitiesSep 21, 2023
The kids are back at school working hard all week, so family fun really needs to be a focus on the weekend. But weekends fill up so fast! Birthday parties, sporting events, school carnivals, play dates, grocery shopping, chores, and home improvement projects…the list goes on and on. The more kids you have, the more complicated planning out the weekend can become, but even with just 1 kiddo and you and your partner’s plans on top of that, planning out the weekend can feel more like solving a puzzle than looking forward to something fun. It becomes tricky to prioritize family time and help your kids each feel special and valued with such a busy weekend schedule.
On top of that, if you have two or more kids, you know bickering can be a big factor in selecting activities for the weekend - from what you do to what you eat to what you watch. Bickering can take all the fun out of family fun time. If you’re nodding your head and reliving painful memories of weekends past, get ready because I have a solution for you!
I’m going to tell you about a strategy we’ve been using in our family for years called Family Weekend Picks that takes all the bickering out of family weekend planning and will help you to hone in on the most important activities for your family to avoid becoming over-scheduled.
Some of you may have learned about my weekly parenting tips through a free download I developed called Take Control of Your Family’s Weekend Schedule. If that doesn’t sound familiar, definitely take a second to download that valuable guide here now. Whether it’s your first time seeing these tips or you’ve been implementing them in your parenting practice for months already, today’s post will take your understanding of the 5 C’s to a whole new level (see The 5 C’s to Amazing Parenting if you’re not already familiar with the 5 C’s).
Here’s what we did to eliminate the bickering over family weekend activities and to help us prioritize the must-do weekend activities while letting go of any that are not a priority: We set up a rotation from oldest to youngest, including parents and assigned each family member a weekend. After that, we continuously cycle through the family, again from oldest to youngest. For our family with 4 kids and 2 parents, that means every 6 weeks, it’s your Family Weekend Pick.
Using age order or a similar system is helpful in case you ever take a couple of weekends off for travel or guests visiting you and then forget whose Weekend Pick is next. Simply remember back to whose pick it was last time, and you’ll know whose turn is next.
We decided as a family what group activities were most meaningful to us and made them a priority in our weekend scheduling.
In our family, on Your Weekend Pick, you get to select:
1) A restaurant for us to dine out at or get take-out from
2) A family activity that everyone will participate in
3) A family movie that we watch on Sunday afternoon for a fun and relaxing end to the weekend
Number 2 on our list is pretty broad because, with 6 people’s preferences, we wanted the activity to be able to include anything from ice skating to playing in the local creek, going to your favorite playground, visiting a museum, or attending a local festival. The activities can also be things at home, like playing yard games together, organizing a family hot tub session, or playing a game of tag all together. Keep in mind that many of these are budget-friendly activities. There are limits to what we can each choose for our Family Weekend Picks to be able to keep up the routine every week.
Your selections might be similar or quite different. Perhaps your family enjoys watching a sporting event on TV every weekend or attending church together, regularly volunteers together, or enjoys a weekly family game night. All of those activities can be great fun for families. When selecting your Family Weekend Pick activities, be sure to select the ones that you really enjoy doing every weekend and bring the family joy. What activities feel like quality time spent together or things everyone is bound to enjoy? Three Weekend Picks is the magic number for us, but you may find that fewer, or maybe even more, works well for your family.
This system is fabulous for:
*Eliminating bickering over weekend activities
*Helping kids feel important and valued
*Prioritizing spending time as a family on the weekend
You may be thinking, “That all sounds great, but how does that help with getting control over a super busy weekend schedule?” Family Weekend Picks help to bring a focus to your weekend calendar. Here’s what you can do when you sit down to plan out your family’s weekend:
1) Make note of any commitments that really must be held, like school plays, dance recitals, birthday parties your child really wants to attend, etc.
2) Decide when you will fit in the three things you have prioritized in your family to enhance family bonding and emphasize the importance of spending time as a family unit.
3) Everything else fills in the gaps. Whether it’s scheduling play dates or letting the kids know when it’s okay to do screen time this weekend, completing steps 2 and 3 will give you a much better picture of how your weekend is shaping up and whether you even want to schedule anything else or just keep it at that. This is one way to teach your kids to think of screen time as a bonus, not a required daily activity - something you fit in where nothing else is scheduled. Remember that some gaps for unstructured playtime can do wonders for fostering creativity and growth in your developing child.
Here’s a fun fact: Each of the 5 C’s are integral to making Family Weekend Picks a success for your family:
Communication: Decide on your Family Weekend Picks. It certainly doesn’t have to be dining out or movies. It could be a sport you all play together, a favorite musician whom you listen to during dinner, a family member you surprise with a FaceTime phone call - you name it. I know a family who developed a fun tradition similar to this during COVID-19, where they selected a different country each week to study, and on the weekend, they prepared a meal representative of that country. Sometimes, they would also play a game or sport popular in that country. Just choose things that your family likes to do together and will help you feel like you’re having a fun and relaxing weekend.
I’d suggest sticking to 3 items to make it a special thing but also keep time open for things like social events and school events. Be sure you make the Weekend Picks happen on each family member’s weekend. If you’re expecting visitors or traveling for a weekend, just skip that weekend and move on to the next family member on the next weekend you’re in town. Otherwise, be consistent about implementing Family Weekend Picks. That way, you communicate to your children that family time is a priority.
Family Weekend Picks also give the family something fun to discuss at the dinner table. We often start looking forward to the weekend on Wednesdays by asking if the designated person knows what they would like to do for their Weekend Picks yet. You’re framing family activities in a positive way as a much-anticipated event.
Consistency: Starting the Family Weekend Picks tradition early and staying consistent with it is part of what will keep family activities in your life for years to come, but how you talk about the experience makes a huge difference in keeping all the kids involved in family activities. As they get older and may have more social and sports activities with friends, you may find some kids asking to opt out of the family weekend activity.
What should you do if people say they don’t want to do the activity? Encourage each family member to pick activities that most people will like. Or if there’s an activity that you know one of the kids doesn’t love, find ways to make it an enjoyable experience for all. For example, one of my kids doesn’t love going to the beach but loves playing cards, so when a sibling chooses the beach for their outing, we always bring a deck of cards along to make it a fun activity that happens to take place at the beach that day. Remember, you’ve got to participate in other people’s picks to ensure you get to make the plans when your weekend rolls around. That reminder is usually enough to stifle any complaints, as everyone loves having their turn to pick.
Choices & Checkpoints: Kids this age are often wanting more and more control over their lives and their schedules. When my kids say things like, “Hey, Mom, when can we check out that new escape room downtown?” instead of giving some vague answer like, “Oh yeah, sometime soon,” I say, “That will be fun on your next weekend pick. Remind me ahead of time, and we’ll make a reservation.” That response communicates that I am hearing them, excited about something they’re excited about, and care enough to make sure it really happens.” It also gets them involved in the planning aspect and helps to teach them patience.
Having choices makes your kids feel more in control of their lives and like a more valued, integral part of your family. It also gives them something fun to look forward to in the near future.
Consequences: Consequences are often thought of as negative, but they can be, and often are, positive. They are the reaction to an action you take. Family Weekend Picks provide an opportunity to show each family member love and support so the special family member that weekend has a good experience, and in turn, we all have good experiences on our designated weekend. After each activity, we acknowledge the special person and thank them like, “That was a fun dinner out, Daddy. Great restaurant selection.” Or, “What a great movie. Thanks for picking it, Susie.” Each family member has their turn being in charge of the choices, which makes them feel special.
Check Yourself: There may be times when one or more family members aren’t very excited about a Family Weekend Pick, and you must put your problem-solving skills to work. To some degree, it’s good for kids to learn to go with the flow and make the most out of a situation. But you want to balance that with the risk of them learning to think of family activities as torture. You can guide the designated family member when choosing their picks for the weekend, perhaps steering them toward an activity that the majority of the family would enjoy.
You can also suggest modifications or additions to the activity to make it more appealing to everyone, as in the beach cards example above. An easy way to get people on board with the family activity is to offer a treat along with the activity. With three boys who often choose stereotypically boy activities and one girl in our family, the promise of a trip to Yogurtland after the family activity is often necessary to keep everyone happy.
You will inevitably get family members who try to skip out on the Family Weekend Pick activity at various stages of development. We have always held that the activity and restaurant trip are required, but if one of the kids really doesn’t want to watch the selected movie, that’s fine; there’s just no alternative screen time during that period - that option would really dismantle the whole family movie opportunity. So, they usually end up watching with us.
Keep in mind that there may be other fun, partial family activities scheduled for the weekend, but there is one designated activity that everyone attends. This helps build the concept of your family as a unit enjoying time spent together, not just separate members living together. This is also how you work around age discrepancies. For example, my oldest has gotten into playing airsoft, but the youngest isn’t old enough to go to the airsoft field yet. So that becomes a fun Big Kid outing with Dad on my oldest’s weekend pick, and he chooses another small activity for the whole family, like a family game night or family hot tub session.
As a parent, it can often feel like our weekends belong to our children's various activities. Whether it's soccer games, dance classes, or birthday parties, our schedules often revolve around our children's social calendars. That’s why it's essential to take a step back and regain control of our weekends, prioritizing family time. That's where my free download comes in. I've created a guide called Take Control of Your Family Weekend Schedule that will help you and your family get the most out of your weekends without sacrificing quality time. This system is a surefire way to minimize sibling bickering to maximize family fun. I often post on my Instagram and Facebook Story on Saturdays about what we choose for our Family Weekend Picks each week if you want to follow our family’s adventures. This week, get your family together and choose the activities that you most enjoy doing together, whether it’s dining out, local hikes, or snuggling at home with a movie. Start a rotation involving all family members, and start making family time a priority!
Family Weekend Picks are an example of how the 5 C’s can be applied to everyday situations you encounter in your parenting practice. I like to sprinkle these posts about the overarching 5 C’s concepts with more focused posts that cover psychology-based tools that fall under specific 5 C’s categories. To view more posts discussing the 5 C’s concepts and applying them to everyday parenting situations, select the 5 C’s from the category search menu on the right of your screen. Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!
P.S. Family Weekend Picks can include local events and activities, or they can be time spent together at home - whatever sounds fun to the family member in charge for that weekend. Check out my Treasures - Activities page and get inspired by some of our family’s favorite family activities.