You sound overwhelmed and in major need of some time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself before tackling the issues with your kids.
I also wonder if picking one thing that's really driving you nuts and working on that, rather than trying to overhaul everything might help you feel like you're making progress!
I liked Sledg's post, but I would never be able to do all of that. I don't know if you would, but it would make me far, far more frustrated to try and tease out that kind of information. When I first read Jane Nelson's "Positive Parenting" I thought I would love family meetings, but in reality I think our family is moving towards more of a top-down traditional authority structure. Maybe when they get older this will change, but for now, I'm finding it necessary to keep myself sane. And, believe it or not, I'm also finding that it minimizes sibling rivalry. I think they feel united against me Maybe you and dh could try being slightly more authoritarian, but in a gentle way of course
I spent quite a bit of time this summer trying out and pondering a more consentual living type approach to parenting. It turns out it doesn't work for me. I am intrigued by the ideas, I like the theory. But I don't like the practice. It feels false to me. I'm sure it's not false for people who are comfortable doing it, but since it doesn't feel genuine to me, I can't do it. thus, while I love the ideas from sledg and WuWei (Pat), it ain't happening in our family!
I will confess to not even trying family meetings, so I'm really impressed that you do those! Maybe it's because my kids are 3 and 6, and we're more or less a family of introverts (with dd being the exception, poor child). I'll consider it in the future, but now, it's not a concept that appeals to me. We have dinner together every night, we have together time. My kids are masters at incorporating into their games the issues that are bothering them -- so I'd prefer to do it through play for now.
Like natensarah, I am more authoritarian than some parents here. Part of it is time, like you said. I too WOH, and my kids are in school/daycare. We have a bit more flexibility in that dh works from home and dd is home with him 2 days a week, but there are times when I cannot be flexible. I cannot leave 40 students waiting for me because dd didn't want to get dressed that morning.
I do consequences for a few select behaviors (hitting, throwing things are the two big ones) -- the consequence for hitting (now that they're old enough to have a minimal amount of impulse control) is to be sent to your room until you calm down enough to be civil again. Throwing things may be that or may be that the toy takes a trip out to the garage until we all calm down. If my kids scream/yell at me, I will leave the room until I can muster the deep breaths needed to deal with it. My kids absolutely hate this, and they react as if I'm abandoning them to the wolves. I'm trying to model good cooling off behavior, but it sure doesn't feel like it in the moment, so I sort of file this under 'punishment'.
I don't have any real answers for you - I struggle with a lot of the same issues. Dd is going through a very, very trying time in terms of demanding yelling, screaming, whining, etc. either when things don't go according to her plan (no we don't have time to watch TV, we're eating dinner in 5 minutes, you can watch TV after dinner).
Having said that, here are some random thoughts:
-Have you considered rotating the evening/bedtime 'duties' between you and your dh? The most exhausting part of parenting to me is when I feel like I'm riding herd on my kids constantly -- and bedtime is a lot of reminding, keeping the kids on task (are you done with your snack yet? finish up please. where are your reading books? it's time to clean up -- come help me put away this game. Are you putting anything away? Keep the broom on the floor...OK, it's time to brush your teeth, where are your bedtime stories? no, it's time to turn out the light...) It's exhausting! So, dh and I rotate. He's responsible for 2 nights, then I get two nights.
-Getting home at 6 pm is late. What time to you leave in the AM? Is there any way for you to adjust your work so you're home at 5 or 5:30? It's tough, I know. I'm lucky to have a job where I can do that most days. The downside is that I work most evenings/weekends too (from home). But, we do a lot better when I can get home just a half hour earlier. things aren't so rushed/stressed.
-Is the TV time in the evening? Have you considered just letting them do TV for 1/2 hr before everything? would that remove a bone of contention? Eliminating it altogether? TV isn't like books where you can read a short book if time is short.
-The Secret of Parenting type waiting/not engaging works pretty well for me. Partly because it keeps me calm. And then we don't feed off each other's strong emotions.
-I am also fairly firm about my limits. If they're not coming to dinner, we sit down to eat without them. If my kids don't get dressed, they leave the house as they are. (dd very nearly rode in the car naked from the waist down today because she wasn't getting dressed.) If they refuse to brush their teeth, then they don't get to eat anything with sugar the next day because we need to keep their teeth healthy. (At 5 and 6, your kids are old enough for this kind of delayed consequence).
-What's your dh's take on this? Does he have any suggestions? Ways to lessen the burden on you? It sounds like you're worrying for the whole family!