The alarm rings by your bed and it is Monday, the beginning of a new school week. Your mission is to motivate/encourage another human being into student mode—and you have a deadline. The next bell is the sound of school starting. What you do between those two alarms makes a big impact on yout mood in car pool and possibly the rest of the day for both you and your child.
Learning the language of feelings improves the emotional climate of our family. When our children are little we do not hesitate to label things for them. People, food, pets, animals at the zoo. The purpose of this naming game is to help communication; it is a sharing between parent and child. If our children only have four words (happy, mad, sad, scared) to describe their emotional experience we are limiting the value and range of emotions in our family.
Increased self-awareness on the feelings part of parenting requires you to identify, acknowledge, and manage your own emotions so you can be more effective in teaching those skills to your child. It directions your attention on the how to get ready for school. Reality check -early morning leadership is a stretch for non-morning people, big and small.
Going back to our morning "sprint," what emotions are you and your child managing? Here is my guess: Tired, reluctant, anxious, and frustrated to name a few. Notice happy, cheerful, excited isn't included in my list. It is stressful to think of the gap between how parents want mornings to feel and the likelihood of those emotions occuring spontaneously. Hence the meltdowns.
When you acknowledge the feelings you and your child are experiencing, each of you can better prepare a strategy for making mornings FEEL better.
As a grown up what soothes you into wakefulness? Is it lingering over coffee? Watching the news? Reading a meditation? Take some time to reflect on the mornings where YOU were less likely to melt down. Put some healthy ritual into your wake up. It may require waking up earlier and getting ready before you get your kiddo moving. This will increase the odds that you will be centered in your morning leadership.
How long does it actually take your child to get ready for school, if left to their own devices? Time it on the weekend. Consider extending your morning to decrease the "rush your guts out" experience. If this is an unreasonable amount of time here are some strategies parents have used to assist in time management:
- Picking out clothes at night.
- Sleeping in their clothes (not kidding, it has been done)
- Storing back pack and shoes by the door.
- Having a list of morning to dos in the bathroom.
To decrease power struggles you may need to develop rules for keeping kids on track. Successful examples are no television in the morning and stating a specific time of departure (our car leaves at 8:00). In the early days our family enjoyed music in the mornings, kid's pick. Tunes kept the pace rolling and provided a sense of time passing. On our best mornings there was a sing along (it was rare but memorable)!
Do school mornings always have to mean a melt-down? No, but as a parent you will do well to adjust your goal to be more zen and less Mario Andretti.
What strategies are working in your mornings?