Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Morning Routines and Chaos: Knowing Better, Doing Better

It has been said that "when you know better, you do better". In my case, this is not always true. Especially as it relates to mornings... school mornings... and children... and well, being on time. I am sure this never happens to you, but we really struggle with getting out of the house on time.

How's this for a math problem? If four children need to be at school by 8:25 AM and all the children lay out their clothes the night before and pack their snacks the night before and if school is only 7 minutes from home and if all the children know exactly what they need to do to be ready for school the next day, what time do they need to get up to meet their goal? I am beginning to think that the problem is unanswerable.

If you have heard me speak on Sticks (http://www.nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/), you know this is something we have worked on in our family before. In fact, we have fully conquered the problem of morning chaos. Conquered. But somehow, every now and then, I forget what I know I once knew and we revert back to the insanity of mornings unleashed.

It's no fun. We begin with my getting the kids up. We have alarm clocks but I give in to mommy guilt and start rubbing their little backs to wake them up. Turns out this takes time. And, because I take responsibility for waking them up, guess who does NOT take the responsibility? That's right... my children. And it is, after all, their task to do.

From there, I begin to follow them around, reminding them to do the things I know they know to do. I am stressed. They are stressed and all of it seems to take forever. When you know better, you do better, right? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Somewhere along the way, I fell off the no-nag wagon and began to ignore the advice I give to others when I speak. Until today.

This morning routine problem has been worsening for weeks. Yesterday, we left the house a whopping 25 minutes later than we should. We drove in frustrated silence the 7 minutes to school where my children went in with little time to play before starting their lessons for the day. I knew we needed a change and that the change would come from me.

After school I sat them down and told them that I would give them NO reminders in the morning. I told them that they already knew what I would say. They know what they must do. We do the same things everyday. I told them we were leaving at 8 AM and that they would be ready by then or... get this... they would not go. I explained that there are plenty of chores that need to be done during the day at home and that I would LOVE the help. Turns out when a child is faced with a day of chores, school looks pretty good. : )

Here is what I know: children are smart and they know what they need to do. They also know that if I will take responsibility for telling them every, single thing, they do not need to think about all that stuff. The job, fully theirs, becomes mine. When I allow this to happen in my own home, how am I preparing my children to become responsible adults someday down the road? What am I teaching them? What do my actions say about my belief that they are capable of doing age appropriate tasks to prepare themselves for the day ahead? Today, I began to remember that I know better.

So, the kids woke up this morning and I poured myself a cup of coffee. They started to get ready for school. Because I was not following them, fussing at them, I had time to make breakfast... baked pancakes and sausage. To help them get ready, I posted a reminder list (with pictures included for my littlest one) and worked hard to stay out of the fray. I got dressed, brushed my hair and teeth and washed my weary face. All the while, my four, owning their own work, ran around the house putting away lunch stuff, gathering school supplies, remembering their own homework, checking the posted list and doing what needed to be done. They ate a hot meal, put dishes in the dishwasher, pushed in their chairs and cleaned up their mess. And, at 8:00, I announced I was leaving and reached for my coat. Two of my kids were already in the van and the other two flew out of the house just in front of me. We left the house 25 minutes earlier than yesterday and I said almost nothing to make that happen. But I had time to cook, time to hug and kiss my babies, time to get myself ready, time...

What does morning look like at your house? What supports have you put in place to help your children know what they need to do? At our house, we use Sticks. But, it takes more than a system to make it all work. I have to trust that I have taught my children well and then let them show me what they know. I have to stand back and allow them do what they will do and let them hold the responsibility they own without my trying to snatch it back. And when I do all of this, what I see is almost miraculous. Four children in coats in the van at 8 AM... and a reminder that they are learning what I am teaching them every, single day.

Sometimes, in order to teach our children, we need to say less, do less and take a big step back. When we do this, we will see that they are capable of far more than we may think and that doing for themselves feels good. When we do this, we may find that we are driving to school with smiles on our faces... what a wonderful way to start the day!

Blessings on your day!

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