In my previous post, "Getting ready in the morning: one of the most dreaded parts of the day", I addressed the challenge of actually getting our children out of bed. Now, it's time to get them out of the house.
"Eat, please". "Brush your teeth". "Put your shoes on". "Backpack!", "Let's go!!!"
How many times a morning do you say these sentences? Sometimes, innumerable. Mornings, in most households, seem to stretch and streeeeetch and never come up to the point were everybody is actually ready to leave. Parents get upset and so do kids.
It is time for us to stop this.
We all deserve a peaceful morning.
Are you in?
To do so, we need to first acknowledge that most kids (and grown ups) don't like to be in a rush in the morning. We therefore need to organize our morning in such a way that both children and parents have enough time to do what they need to do, without rushing. Once we've secured this, it's time to "get them moving".
Use humor and your best positive attitude.
Getting upset at our kids for not moving fast enough - a very natural reaction most of us have - tends to just make things worse. The whole house atmosphere turns to be unpleasant and in most cases, we gain nothing other than starting the morning in a bad mood. A really bad one.
Using humor and a great attitude as a way to get our children moving, is an effective option to get things going without damaging our relationship with our children or securing a bad mood for the rest of the day. For example, instead of using sentences like "Did you brush your teeth?! Got brush your teeth! How many times do I need to tell you to brush your teeth!?", you might want to try sentences like: "Hmmm! I can tell that your teeth need some extra TLC this morning. Go brush them before all the bacteria eat them up!" (using your best smile and positive attitude), or "C'mon Jonny, go brush your teeth and when you are ready, there's a huge hug here waiting for you", or you could even use your best silly face and say something like "Sarah, your teeth need yet to be brushed. Go for it?"
Children (and adults) tend to resist orders but to cooperate with loving, positive, even funny requests. Try to avoid imparting commands and shift to humor and a great attitude. They work like magic.
Disclosure: Loving, positive, funny requests will do their job once you've established a good relationship with your child. If you find your loving, positive, funny requests not working, this might be a great opportunity to work on your relationship with your children.
Be assertive and keep your word.
Loving, positive, funny requests are awesome but sometimes not enough. That's when assertiveness comes to the game. Let's say we've done our best to guide our child through her morning "duties" and she is still not cooperating. That's when, still with our most loving and calm voice, we become assertive. At this point, a good option is to physically walk with your child to the room where she needs to perform her next task (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen), remind her of it and leave. Hopefully, this will be enough to get her going, but, if after this you see that she is still not cooperating, you can proceed to be even more assertive and explain what the consequences of not doing what she needs to do, will be. For example: "Honey, we need to leave in five minutes. You still have time to eat your breakfast if you want. If you choose not to, you'll have to go to school hungry. Remember that your next meal is only in x hours from now" or "Kiddo, you have one minute to put your shoes on. If by the time that we need to leave they are not on, you'll have to take them with you and put them on in the car/bus", or "Pete, I see that you are still in your pajamas and in three minutes we are leaving. Are you sure you want all of you classmates to see you in your pajamas?"
The tricky part here is now for the adult (aka you and me) not to engage in a negotiation and to keep his word. If I told my child that she only has five minutes to have breakfast and she chooses (yes, she chooses) not to have it, then I need not to pack it for her to go, allow her to take it with her or give her a treat for the ride. Would I choose to do so (again, yes, I choose), I'd be breaking my word, loosing trustworthiness (in the eyes of my child if I don't keep my word for this I won't do it also for things that are important to her) and giving my child an excellent reason not to have her breakfast on time tomorrow either. Why would she, right?
Same thing with the shoes or the pajamas. If the child is not ready on time, she should leave the house anyway. Shoes can be taken in her hand (not the parent's) and so do clothes. It is important here not to allow extra time in the car to put shoes or clothes on. If we do, we would be incurring in the same mistake described above, regarding breakfast. Harsh? Well, I don't know what's worse, if to have a yucky morning every day, the two of you, or to teach a lesson once. Believe me, it will be just once. No child likes to walk into school in their pajamas, with their shoes in their hands or be hungry, and if they do, then it's worth checking for the underlying challenge that's behind this.
Children need love and boundaries. They need both to survive and succeed.
I hope you've found this article helpful and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Classroom Management Mentor.