All posts tagged morning routine

Intelligent Design: Routines Don’t Just Appear with a Big “Bang

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking,”Please, that’s gonna be hard!” But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Trust us, you’ll feel pretty savvy once you’ve decided to redesign your deal!

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1. Observe your kids for a day or two and look for what I call their “natural rhythm”. You may have to employ the “duct tape” technique (a technique developed by me to assist in keeping my mouth shut because I lacked the necessary discipline to do it without assistance) in order to get “accurate” information about how your kids are currently handling their morning. Don’t worry if you are late for a day or two, or homework gets left undone, or if bedtime is a bit frazzled. You are investing in the emotional health of your family, so a small disruption in the family might be necessary.

2. Identify where you get stuck (example: We can’t get bedtime right. We’ve tried everything). List observations about why you get stuck (Bedtime is messy because they share a room and one reads quietly before bed while the other jumps around).

3. Identify where the day flows well (after school, the kids get home and put their backpacks in the mudroom).

4. Tell your kids that you have been trying to set up the routines in the family the way you like them and you realize that you made a mistake.

5. Invite them to sit down with you and lay out how they would set up each routine. Here is how I started it – “In a perfect world, on a perfect day, what would the morning look like to you?” And then I listened. Really listened to what they were telling me.

6. Identify the goal of having a Morning, Afternoon and Bedtime routine.

EXAMPLES

  • To get out of the house on time, every day, with all our stuff, a good breakfast in the belly with everyone smiling and excited about the day.
  • To have a calm afternoon that helps the family reconnect and prepare for the 2nd half of the day.
  • To say goodnight, feeling connected, loving and peaceful.

Great, then you play with variables and options. Try them! You don’t have to stick with what’s not working.

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SMART TIP FOR ROUTINE REDESIGN

1. Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons and bedtimes “should” be. Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18.

2. Decide that you will give, whatever routine you set up, time to work. We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation, wait at least 2 weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system to try and implement into daily life with the kids.

3. Keep it within reach! If you want your child to pack a lunch easily and enthusiastically, store the food where they can reach it. The same goes for nontoxic cleaners and clothing. Many routine hiccups can be addressed by physically moving materials kids are expected to handle down to their level.

Have fun! Practice makes progress!

Use the Force: Follow a Child’s Natural Rhythm and Preference

Anyone with kids has probably noticed the 5:00 hour is somehow a portal to the dark side. There’s no getting around it. It’s been called “the bewitching hour”, “arsenic hour” and reversely, “happy hour” by parents who choose to check out while the chaos ensues.

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Joking aside, this is the perfect example of how to use natural forces to your advantage. Maybe, asking the kids to sit down and crack the books at 5:00 is asking for a meltdown—one that could be avoided by simply going with the flow of natural productivity. Homework at 3:00? Possibly. Homework at 6:00? Doable. But homework at 5:00? Probably not. The point is, it’s important to notice your child’s natural rhythms and preference and then leverage them to create seamless routines that support an instinctual nature. If your child is squirrely at 5pm, that might be a good time to invite him into the kitchen and have him make his lunch for the following day. Perhaps your child is a morning person. Invite them to make lunches before the bus. Got a late sleeper? Develop a routine that will have them prep their stuff before they go to bed so they get up and follow the same process right out the door.

There are some influences that can’t be changed, but there are many small adjustments that will lead to a much smoother flow throughout the day. And remember: expect hotspots around the am and bedtime routines, transitions to leave the house and getting “stuff” together for sports and activities. No matter what your rhythms and preferences are, understanding them and working with them will make each and every day more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

Finding the right rhythm may take some time. Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Identify the night owls and the morning larks.
  • Identify the rabbits and the turtles.
  • If a conflict ensues regarding an activity at a certain time of day – this is your key.
  • Have faith. Try it out. Give it time. And TRUST.

5 Tips: Kids Packing Lunch

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As we said before, packing a lunch is a very useful and “real life” habit that will help your child develop responsibility, time management and confidence. It’s also a nice way to send the message that you trust your child with decisions that affect her life.

Here are 5 ways to help you make this process smooth and simple so that you can walk out of the kitchen and trust they can handle it.

1. EASY REACH: USE LOW STORAGE FOR SUPPLIES

The kitchen is where we keep all the necessities for packing lunches and making meals. Unfortunately, we often keep the clingwrap, napkins, bread and other essentials up high. Open your cabinets and open the low drawers- can your children use these items for making lunches? Or, is it stuff that can be put up high until it’s needed. You can even bring your dishes, bowls and cups to a lower height to make this easier for meals at home. In order to help your child’s independence, put anything and everything your child might need like straws, napkins, lunchbags, and so on. within easy reach.

2. GET YOUR LIDS & BOXES TOGETHER

Nothing says frustration like searching for containers and lids that don’t match. Stock one drawer, bin or cabinet and make sure that they can find matching lids and containers without needing you to “help” by digging through three buckets of plastic for them—it’s a pain. Set them up for success with matching storage containers / jars, etc. This includes drink bottles and screw tops as well!

3. PLAN AHEAD AND STOCK UP

If you have to, spend Sunday nights stocking the kitchen so the mornings are smooth and hands off. Stock one bottom drawer in the fridge with a week’s worth of juiceboxes, or other choices they can grab and pack themselves. Fill the other drawer with fruit or “healthy” options like yogurts, cheese, apple slices, premade “pbj” circle sandwiches, or applesauce, and so on. Stock the pantry or lower cabinet/drawer with a variety of snack, they can be crackers, graham crackers, or chips depending on what you’re committed to. Then tell the kids to choose one snack, one fruit and one dairy and they can choose the rest, or whatever your guildelines are. The most important part is to let THEM CHOOSE. If you’ve stocked it, it’s fair game!

4. MAKE THE SNACKS WIN-WIN

Yes, they will want cookies and junk over healthy stuff but you can set the tone for a healthy lunch by offering “treats” you can live with. This will get them excited to pack their lunches – even if you HATE those fruit rolly things they ask for every time—if they agree to pack and eat other healthy options as well, let them have some sort of “exciting” lunch food they’ve been asking for – just choose something you can live with, vs. something that will eventually make you step in and say no. Kids are willing to balance their own lunches if they can have some say in what goes in there! So, again, stock a space and set a limit (there are five days, five roll ups, and if they eat them all by Tuesday, well, then, they’re out and they’ll have to choose something else). But, if they want one everyday, they’ll have to pace themselves. The point is, your kids are practicing real life skills. You can’t expect a 13 year old to make skillful choices if they haven’t been making them for 10 years. So provide opportunities for the kids to learn.

5. AIM FOR 3 of 5 DAYS TO START

Don’t set out on this change in habit without setting some realistic goals. The first week might go great, but then everyone will fall off. Just know this will happen (it might not, but plan for it). Then, once you’ve gotten an idea of how you’d like to see the mornings go, aim for three days of the five. If you only hit two, well, it’s better than nothing. Keep going until your children trust you’re not even thinking about their lunches anymore! It takes time and it’ll never be perfect. Remember to invite them into the kitchen when you are preparing meals, this will help them feel more comfortable and practice outside of a morning or bedtime routine. Let yourself have a little room to make mistakes and it’ll be much easier to stick with it. [hr]

Get out of the Way!

Every day I am inspired by nuggets of wisdom from Vicki Hoefle, Creator of the Parenting On Track™ program.

Yesterday it was. “If you want your children to have faith in their abilities, first you, the parent, must believe in their abilities.” I have heard this 100s of times and yesterday I experienced its power.

Here is how it played out.

My husband was away on business and I offered to drive the older kids (13 & 15) to town before school, so they could meet some friends for breakfast. I would come back home and make another trip to drop off the younger ones (9 & 6) at the elementary school.

The morning was humming along – kids in the shower, getting ready…5 minutes before I am scheduled to leave, I announce to the two youngest, that I will be leaving with the two oldest and back in time to drive them to school.

The 9 year old – starts to pitch a fit – I mean pitch one. I had a moment where I thought “I have to tape this, because nobody will believe this is happening – I don’t believe this is happening.” She is screaming, “I can’t do it, I NEED your help.” Now mind you – I have been teaching this child the skills necessary to get out of the house on time, prepared for school in the morning since she was 2 and she has been practicing for the past 3 years, solo. I really have not “helped” this child for the past 3 years, in any aspect of her morning routine.

I personally have practiced the skills of disengagement, as she has on occasion attempted to draw me in with her “cheap” drama. She is an amazing dramatic actress. Now for those of you who don’t believe that these types of fits are cheap drama, and that this poor child needed her mother to tend to her…..read on.

I stick to my word, as we are a family that practices following through. And I tell my daughter that I have faith in her abilities and that I have no reason to believe she can not handle preparing herself for the morning. I attempt to kiss this child who really looks like she is in the middle of an exorcism – and am forced to retreat in order to avoid a kick to the belly. She is invested – full body invested.

I kiss my other child who is sitting on the big overstuffed chair by our woodstove, looking very cozy I might add and watching her older sister intently.

I lock the door behind me and head out.

As I am driving back into our driveway some 25 minutes later and about 45 seconds from the door, I call from my cell phone.

    “Hello.”

    “Hey babe, it’s Mom.”

    “Hi Mommy, we are having a snack of hot chocolate, grapes, cheese and pretzels.”

    “Excellent, what else do you have to do to be ready for school?”

    “Oh nothing, just clean up our snack, put on our boots and our coats.”

    “Ok, do you think you can do that in 30 seconds?”

    “Yep.”

    “Ok, I’ll meet you outside of the mudroom door.”

    “Ok” she says. “Do you have the key?” she asks.

    “Why yes, yes I do.”

    “Ok good, because I will make sure the door is locked and don’t want you to be locked out when you get home.”

    “Thanks, I’ll see you soon”

I am so grateful for these girls. I appreciate how resilient, clever, tenacious, and capable they are. As powerful as this moment was for us, it’s entirely possible that 4 days from now, when we come together for our regularly scheduled Family Meeting, I will have no memory of it and I will forget to appreciate these amazing daughters of mine. So, I will take the necessary steps to imprint this memory in my being and remember it for Saturday.

In May of this year, I will have access to an amazing iphone app developed by Anna Rosenblum Palmer of winwinapps inspired by Parenting On Track™. This app will be called Marble Jar and will have a Bright Spot feature that will enable me to record this moment on my phone and easily access it tomorrow or 4 days from now at our Family Meeting. Imagine being able to stop & record the remarkably wonderful things our children do, rather than always trying to figure out how to fix the mistakes they make? Priceless and soon to be available at your fingertips.

Yowza!! I have practiced for the past 10 years showing faith in my kids and trusting in their abilities along with taking the time to train and support them and it is paying off in spades. I am so grateful that I was able to let go of & look past the screaming, the kicking, and the near miss to my abdomen and walk away.

I was reminded AGAIN, of how capable my kids are at getting themselves ready in the am and of their attempts, to at times, convince me otherwise when they are feeling discouraged. I am also reminded that the best thing you can do for capable kids – is step aside (get out of the way) and watch them soar!

Morning Routine

morning-routineThe morning routine has long been one of the “challenging” times in the life of a family.  We’ve all had those mornings when kids don’t want to get out of bed, they find their clothes “just aren’t right”, or maybe their breakfast lacks appeal.  All these small moments can quickly add up to power struggles, stress and a bumpy start to the day. As parents, we understand that the morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it is important to start on the right foot.

Here are a few simple tips that you could use every day to avoid those power struggles and remind your kids that you believe in them and love them.  This, of course, translates into a relaxed, confident and enthusiastic child.  You know, a kid with a “can do” attitude, one who enters school with a smile, a swagger and a “bring it on” look in his or her eyes.

1. Appreciations:
Identify specific character traits in your child that you admire and make an observation about one every morning.

  • Imagine being greeted each morning by someone who clearly knows you and appreciates you.
  • These appreciations might sound something like:
  • You always wake up in a good mood.
  • You are such a curious kid.
  • You can make your mom and I smile even when we are upset about something.
  • You are incredibly patient with your siblings.

2. Participation:
Invite your children to do more for themselves.

  • Imagine being treated like a capable, competent person by the people most important to you – your parents.
  • Try some or all of these suggestions:
  • If you have been getting them up, ask them if they want to get an alarm clock and get up on their own.
  • If you have been making their breakfast, ask them if they want to make pancakes with you this morning.
  • If you nag them to get ready, try being quiet and see what happens.

3. Connection:
Create a final connection with your kids in the evening before they go to bed.

  • Have faith in your children and show them that no matter what happens – you love them.
  • Ask questions that are relaxed and open ended (and not about the upcoming test).
  • Sit quietly at the bottom of the bed and tell them you just want to hang out with them for a few more minutes.
  • Do something unexpected (like paint toenails, or give a back scratch).
  • Create a positive affirmation of what the next day will look like, together.

I think you’ll be surprised how quickly you can turn the morning into a time of day you actually look forward to by incorporating any combination of these ideas into your routine.  These suggestions are only part of the many things that parents can do right away that have a significant impact on the attitude of their children as they navigate their lives, start their days and face daily challenges – regardless of whether those challenges are standardized tests or deciding what to have for breakfast.  All of this, and much more, can be found right now, today, in the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

Parenting On Track™ offers families access to proactive, sustainable, age-independent strategies to help you parent from your best.  The program is based on long-term solutions which help children implement and practice life skills that will help them maneuver their way from childhood through adolescence, and into young adulthood with confidence and enthusiasm. The fundamental principles of Parenting On Track™ focus on training, the understanding that parenting is a journey, and that there are no quick fixes.  I teach the program because, as a mother of five, I have lived (and taught) it for twenty years and I know it works.