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How to Make the Buddy System Work in Your Family

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Wondering about the buddy system or how to implement it in your family? Maybe you’ve heard about it, but you have no idea about the why of it, or how it can be a huge benefit if you’ve got more than one child in your family.

In many families, especially in a larger family setting, having a buddy system is essential since the children far outweigh the parents. If you are like me with a spouse who is out of the house at least 70 hours a week, it is even more valuable since you are flying solo much of the time.

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So, what exactly is the buddy system? We will get to that in a minute, but I will tell you that it is often the “secret sauce” as to how I can manage running my house of eight kids on my own much of the time.

Here’s a bit more about the buddy system and how to make it work in your family.

buddy system

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When does the buddy system start?

In our house, someone graduates to being an older buddy around the age of seven, depending on the children involved and the needs at the time. Generally speaking, it is seven years of age. If you have a need for an older buddy sooner and have a child who is responsible enough, it can certainly start much sooner.

Certainly, there are plenty of things that even two-year-olds can do to help care for their younger siblings, but in terms of the buddy system for our purposes here, the older one is taking responsibility for the younger ones in some ways.

Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.

What does an older buddy do?

In our family, the older child has four main times when their help is needed. Here’s a brief rundown of those times and how they work.

When their little buddy gets up. The older buddy needs to:

  • oversee bed making for the little one (whatever this may look like depending on age)
  • help little buddy get dressed
  • job shadow with morning chores
  • help them brush teeth after breakfast


  • older buddy is in charge of getting food and drink for little buddy (generally we have a meal preparer, but the older buddy is in charge of making sure the little one gets everything they need)
  • get seconds on anything needed
  • help clear their dishes

When leaving the house:

  • gather any needed coats, socks, shoes, or winter wear
  • make sure little buddy has used the bathroom
  • gather anything that may be going with us like a book for the car
  • get buckled into the car
  • help get out of car
  • hold hand and keep an eye on the little buddy
  • help get back in car

Getting little buddy ready for bed:

  • bath or shower
  • get dressed in pajamas
  • brush teeth
  • bedtime story
  • making sure there is a nightlight and music or story on for bedtime in their room
  • help clean up their clothes and hang up wet towel

Of course, these things are not the sole responsibility of the older buddy because I do various things with morning time, meal times, and bedtimes. But, it is helpful to have someone “on call” for whenever I need them—someone who is trained and ready to go.

I also cannot say how essential it is to me to have the buddy system in place for when we leave the house. There is no way that I can safely keep an eye on all the littles on my own. This is especially true because I have three very active boys and then a baby bringing up the rear of our family as of right now. I find it helpful to practice with smaller outings first for training purposes before heading out to a busy place like an amusement park.

If you have always wanted to try the buddy system but never really knew how to make it work, here is the way it works in our family. Even if you have only young children as I did for at least my first three, they can still be taught to hold hands while out. This way, your kids will be easier for you to keep track of as a pair as opposed to two singles. They can also work as a team to gather things for leaving the house.

As you know, life with kids is all about making it work however it needs to work. The buddy system has worked well for us through the years.

Wondering more about how to teach your kids to behave when you’re out in public?

Try reading The Day I Lost My Child On Purpose or How to Eat Out With Kids

Do you use the buddy system?

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  1. I have never heard of this before but I love the idea! When I was growing up, the buddy system was just making sure we didn’t go anywhere without a buddy. My oldest son is 6 and very mature. I think I might start having him be a big buddy and see what happens.

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