I remember the first year we started pre-k, going to school was hell. (My child went to pre-school one extra year as he was born after cut off for previous kindergarten year). The morning routine was as follows: the alarm would go off, I would wake up, get everything ready and then wake everyone up, get them ready for school. In the middle of it, somewhere, would be my child, slowly getting ready, not wanting to go. He did not want to wear his clothes, would want to finish his cartoon before we left or would have some other thing that he wanted to do.Or if he wanted to go, he would be stalling around at breakfast or for drinking milk or some completely other reason.
I clearly remember getting extremely frustrated at my kids and my husband (poor guy, he got most of my bad side for no fault of his own during those crazy moments) as I was running late to get to work and literally no one would be ready on time.I also remember during those periods that I was skipping breakfasts and getting further late to work as I would stop somewhere to pick up a chai latte and eggs and breathe for a minute before I entered work. It was not the most productive or helpful habit. I was also 20 lbs overweight but that is a story for some other time.
I talked to my husband about these issues and we knew we had some form of changes that we had to make in order for our child to get ready on time for school.
To make changes we had to first figure out what exactly was going wrong.
I believe that in order to improve our lives we have to make some form of a change in our daily routine and do something differently. And in order to do something differently, we have to know what we are doing daily that is not working.
Here were some of the things that were wrong:
- He was going to bed really late (almost 10-11pm) in spite of us trying to make him sleep at 9 pm
- He was watching cartoon early in the morning
- He was not liking his breakfast or it was possibly too much for him
- Our morning interaction was nothing but a big yelling match
- We were always in a rush mode and at the edge of being irritated
- Our mornings were not conscious at all and everything was on an auto-pilot with no space for a connecting dialogue. Those were reserved for the nights
- We were not providing any role model for him as to eating breakfast or about being healthy
- We always showed how excited we were about his school but failed to bring that excitement in him and have his internal motivation woken up
It is not easy as a parent to admit you have done something wrong. But if it is for the greater good of the family, it is ok to face the truth and change the consequences.
So my husband and I faced our truth and changed our morning routine:
- We changed my kid’s preschool. What was not working were his afternoon naps as that gave him a lot of energy at night. There were a few other things that were not working schoolwise so the change was welcome. I would not have very easily changed schools otherwise. It was one of the hardest changes we had to make but we chose a preschool where they did not nap in the afternoon. It brought an amazing change in his night time routine and he started sleeping at sane hours at night. (9pm-ish)
- We made a rule to not turn a TV on in the morning. This took a while to catch on and we decided to give some interesting incentives for not watching cartoons in the morning.
- We started waking my child up 15 mins earlier than usual so he had enough time to eat his breakfast.
- We started eating breakfast with him or in front of him so he could model our behavior of having breakfast at home before we leave anywhere.
- I let him tell me what he wanted for breakfast, snack, and lunch the next day so he was excited about his food. When he chose wrong, I told him what the long-term effects could be about eating the wrong food. While he chooses healthy most of the time, we do have some days when he wants Nachos for lunch.
- Instead of TV, now I started talking to my child in the morning. Asking him questions about his excitement about meeting his friends, reading a new book or doing some experiment with the teacher. I would talk to him about what I would be doing at my work. My husband started connecting with him more on his level.
- As he started growing up, he got excited about choosing his clothes, dressing himself up, combing his own hair and it motivated him. So after he finished his breakfast, I started with letting him choose his clothes for the day and slowly let him get ready on his own.
- We consciously got over the rush mode and decided to breathe in and out and take impatience out of our equation. It single-handedly helped us change how we connected with each other every morning. And no we did not meditate for this.
- We now have a kindergartener, who gets ready on his own, is excited to go to school and also eats his breakfast at home before he goes to the bus stop.
If you are looking to end your morning struggles as a parent, here are 8 steps to create your own conscious morning routine with your kids:
- Find out what is not working for you
- Now make a conscious list of root causes of your problem
- Own your mistakes
- Change them one by one and replace them with what will work for you as a family (not all at the same time. It is the hardest route and can burn you. I have tried it)
- Become a role model for a behavior you wish to incorporate in your children.
- Develop patience in yourself and your children
- Develop self-compassion
- Celebrate success and repeat.
If you have had success with your morning power struggles, I would love to know in comments below what you did differently and what changed your life?