Morning is Broken

I'm not sure this is the post I want to post, but it's on my mind.

Today I did a positive parenting experiment. Normally Blake and I nag and cajole the girls through their morning, until we're all angry at each other and we end up rushing to school in a sweaty rush. Lousy way to start the day, so I decided to Schäfer it up: I would tell the girls what was expected of them and what I would do, and then I would step back and let them take responsibility for their morning routine.

They were forty minutes late for school.

Here's how it went down. We ate breakfast together, and then I went upstairs to take a shower and dress, with the following message: "You guys need to take your two trips [to the kitchen with stuff from the table], pack your lunches and snacks and get dressed. If you have time can you give Thomas his food and water?" At that point they had enough time to complete everything if they got on with it.

While I was in the shower they fought. While I was getting dressed they fought and then played. After I was dressed I came downstairs—the table was not cleared and they were both still in their pajamas. I carried on without agitation or urgency. I finished clearing the table while they played, them I folded laundry. At 8:30 I let them know the first bell was ringing at school—they were still in their pajamas, but at that point Delphine started to rush. She asked for, and received, help packing her lunch, while Cordelia stayed in her pajamas. Delphine tried to get Cordelia to hurry up, and she agreed to pack Cordelia's snack while she got dressed. Finally we left the house at 9:05, and signed in at school at around 9:20.

I was calm on the outside but on the inside I was freaking out while they played as if they hadn't a thing to do all day. It was a miracle of parental self-restraint. I didn't even nag on the way to school, I let being late speak for itself. (When you say "I told you so" or "let this be a lesson to you" it's called piggybacking and it turns a natural consequence into a punishment, which just gets you caught up in a power struggle and demotivates the child.) Being on time for school is not my problem, it's theirs. My job is to provide them with the tools and information to get to school on time.

Tonight we're going to have a family meeting to talk about mornings. My suggestion will be to make a morning routine poster, and I will let them know that a) I will only remind them of their morning responsibilities once, b) I will not play with them in the morning, and c) I will let them know what time it is every ten minutes. Hopefully they will come up with some ideas of how to stay focussed in the morning.

I hope tomorrow goes better. I know I'm supposed to be detached and aloof, but the school expects the parents to "get" their children to school on time, so I do feel responsible and guilty when they are late. Also, I have a few morning meetings and appointments coming up which I don't want to be late for. I'll have to review my parenting books and see what I'm supposed when my kids are making me late. In the meantime I will repeat the following phrase: "It will get worse before it gets better. It will get worse before it gets better."


What I Did Wrong: I sprung this new behaviour on them without warning. As I said, normally we nag and hustle and bother them all morning and I think that's where they get their clues as to how late they are and what they should be doing. Today I remained calm and I think the girls interpreted that to mean that we were on time, even though I told them in words that we weren't. Actions really do speak louder.

Also, we were running a teeny bit behind right from the start. Not behind enough to make us late, but behind enough that we needed to be brisk. So I would say I'm responsible for about five minutes of that forty. I would rather our mornings were leisurely but focussed, which will mean I need to be more disciplined about getting up and fixing breakfast on time.

What I Did Right: I think otherwise I applied the principles of positive parenting correctly. I remained kind yet firm, I didn't get into any power struggles, I told them what I would do rather than what they should do.

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