Here are some tips to get you and your family out the door without battles and on time:
Create a schedule and post it.
The easiest way to get everyone moving, particularly in the morning, is to have a predictable ROUTINE. This routine needs to include a list of tasks and an order to complete them. I like to call the list of these things "jobs." For example, our morning job list is: pee, eat, get dressed, brush teeth, gather things. Keep the language simple!
Give children a choice regarding what order they'd like to do the jobs so they don't feel overly controlled. Put sections of playtime in between the jobs. Once the kids have picked the order, create a poster that reminds them of the order. I put a picture of our family's poster above. I wrote out the jobs and cut them out, letting my kids place them on the poster in the order they liked.
Use a timer.
We use the microwave time to let the kids know how much time they have to complete a job or how much playtime until the next one. I often say things like this, "Okay, after you get dressed, the timer is going on for twenty minutes of play time." Kids do better seeing a clock counting down with regular reference to it than using "when the long hand is touching the 3, it is brushing-teeth time." Did you notice I used an "after/ then" also known as a "when/ then" which leads me to my next point...
Use When/Thens and After/Thens instead of threats.
Threats put people on the defensive. It is a subtle difference, but using a when/ then or after/ then statement hits the right part of the brain to get cooperation. For example, "If you don't get dressed right now, no iPad for you today!" might get a kid to finish dressing, but she'll likely be fuming. The following line, on the other hand,combined with a gentle voice is much more effective, "When you are done changing, then we have time for ___ (playing/ to read a book together/ to hang out)."
Introduce the concept of the "Late Zone."
Let the kids know what time the late zone is and when it starts. I say this, "The late zone starts at 8:30 so we have to be out the door before that." Talk about what the late zone is, being sure to emphasize all the negative aspects: "The late zone means we have not left early enough and will end up arriving late. We'll have to apologize to your ___ (teacher/ camp-director/ doctor) for not being there at the time we were supposed to. I feel yucky inside when we're late—all rushy inside." Please use language that is age-appropriate.
Use the routine and timer to stay out of the late zone. I regularly put the timer on for the late zone and say things like, "Oh, I see we have three minutes until we're in the late zone; what needs to get done before that?"
Talk about the "Out-The-Door" time.
This goes hand-in-hand with the late zone. Make sure everyone in the family knows what the out-the-door time is. I shout this out pretty much every time we have to be somewhere. "Hey, our flight leaves at 7am so our out-the-door time tomorrow morning is 5:20am. EEK!" or "In order to make our six o'clock reservation, our out-the-door time is 5:25."
Less is More.
Poor planning is often the reason people are late. Do not try to cram just one more thing in before running out the door. Be rested and let that one thing happen at a later time.
I post other free parenting help on my facebook page so you are welcome to pop over there. Here's to getting out the door happily and on time.
Most people have heard of the term "attachment" through the phrase "attachment parenting." Separate of that parenting style, the word attachment, according to psychologist Mary Ainsworth is "defined as an affectional tie that one person or animal forms between himself and another specific one — a tie that binds them together in space and endures over time."
Children who are securely attached to their parents do better on almost all growth and personality scales. Contrary to what some believe, you can't actually "spoil a child with attention" because the more attention you pour into young children, the more independent they become. This independence is born when a person feels able to be themselves and confident to leave their parent's side.
I refer to someone's attachment connection capacity with his or her parent as an "attachment tank." How full the tank is often affects that child's behaviour and self-confidence.
When a child has a full tank, he/she feels comfortable to wander off on his own, knowing his parent is able to meet his needs as they arise. A child with a full tank doesn't need to beg his parents for attention, because he already feels full of attention — he knows he is seen, heard, and understood.
A child with an empty tank will do anything he can to fill it — in a negative or positive way. Humans have an instinctual desire to feel important so if no one fills that desire; we try to get it filled somehow.
One of the questions I ask families who arrive in my psychotherapy practice is how much one-on-one time they spend with the children. This means time without distractions, or doing something like morning/bedtime routine or house chores.
Often, parents who ask me for help with "bad behaviour" realize the one-on-one time with their child is low. They realize their child's attachment tank is very low or completely empty. The first thing I ask parents to do is spend at least two weeks filling their child's tank. *If the relationship has really soured, they may need help with learning how to reconnect with children they don't feel like being around.
Here are some of the suggestions I recommend to filling your child's attachment tank (and keep it full.) Once a tank is full, it is easier to top up. The lower the tank is drained, the longer it takes to fill up again.
Create connection points of at least ten or fifteen minutes with each of your children.
Put your chores and phone down, and join in what your child is doing. Don't hijack the game! Let your child pick the activity.
Have a minimum of two of these connection points, and ideally three of them per day.
Good times to connect are: first thing in the morning, when you first see your children again after being away from them during the day, and before bedtime. If you have to be away from your child and miss these connection points, you can use an attachment bridge, which I explain in this article.
Use "I see you" statements wherever you can.
These statements have no judgement and are more like commentaries. Use these when your children are doing something you approve of like, "Hey, I see you helping your sister. Thanks, I appreciate that." Other examples are: "I see you concentrating so well on something that is hard."/"I see you are frustrated. Would you like some help?"
Chat with your child and ask questions about what is important to him/her. It is critical not to judge any answers with something like, "Oh, I'm sure it wasn't that bad." — that can feel invalidating. A more empathetic response is, "Oh, it sounds like that was difficult. How are you doing now?"
Dial up the empathy.
Further to my last point, try to imagine how your child is feeling. If it seems one of your kids is "off," be the person that child can turn to for problem solving and a shoulder to cry on.
Some parents say, "I don't need to fill up my child's tank—I'm with him all day!" Actually that may not be accurate. It is possible to be physically with your child all day, but not actually fill up that child's tank. I have seen this in my clients, and know it first hand with my own children.
Good questions that grow awareness of how parents interact with their children are these:
How does my child feel about himself as a result of spending time with me?
Does my child feel important?
Does my child feel like he matters to me?
This is a short introduction to attachment and how to maintain a strong connection with your child. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can come over to my facebook page where I continually post resources for parents.
A common challenge parents have is what to do when two partners cannot agree on things like discipline styles, communication methods or co-sleeping.
The most stark difference I have seen is when one parent does not spank the children, but the other does. Regardless of my opinion on spanking, which you can read about here, this parenting difference is bound to cause problems.
I often see parenting challenges arise when the children become toddlers—the months where motionless babies who smile at anything become little ones who hit siblings and throw food. When a child is about nine months old, it is a good time to sit down with all the primary caregivers to discuss parenting goals and priorities.
The other challenging time is at the start of the teen years. If there has been a history of non-democratic parenting, a teen child might start sneaking around and telling lies. When teens do not believe their parents are open enough to listen or will be too hard to talk to, their behaviour can become wild. Parents who can't agree on how to respond to this might push their teen further away.
Here are suggestions to get you and your partner on the same parenting page:
Create a clear family vision.
Spend some time with your partner discussing your hopes as a parent. Break down your daily life and decide how you plan to get through transitions and the tough stuff. If you both don't really know what your vision is, take some time to think about what kind of adults you hope your children will be. One parent told me she just hopes her children "won't be a**holes"—you might want to be more specific than that.
Make a plan.
Work together to decide things like your discipline strategy, bedtime routine, and how to get out the door on time. Write down the steps and their order so partners and other caregivers can see it. When my kids were toddlers, I had lists all over the house. The bedtime and naptime plans were posted on the fridge so no matter who was taking the child to bed, the same order of events happened (well, usually happened).
Chat about everything—breakfast, forgotten backpacks, and homework routines.
Decide as individuals what your "deal breakers" are, and what can give a little.
We teach our children to "use your words," so I encourage parents to be clear on what can or cannot happen in their home. If one parent has a deal breaker (like spanking, for example) that the other refuses to stop, it is time to bring in professional help. When one parent is being railroaded by another on something she/he feels is really important, that parent needs to find her own words, and take action to be heard.
Two adults coming together to raise a family did not grow up in the same household and thus have different experiences of what it is like to be a kid. Some adults might have heavy feelings about their childhood and some might have extreme thinking as a result of being raised with extreme parenting. It can feel hard to discuss the challenges we bring into a relationship, but these discussions will make a big difference in how the family functions. If one parent feels her or she isn't being heard by the other, or is feeling overwhelmed, consider seeking help from a trusted psychotherapist or counsellor to off-load the intense feelings and learn communication skills.
Turn toward your partner, not away.
Please remember that you and your partner are both are on the same team; that you both love your children and want the best for them.
I first came across the term "turn towards your partner" from John Gottman & Nan Silver's book WHAT MAKES LOVE LAST? I recommend this book—there are many valuable communication strategies within the pages. It is so easy to get upset at our partner and run to someone else with complaints. This little mantra reminds adults to go to their partners first to share their concerns. This book teaches partners how to disagree or argue well.
I'd like to thank Vicki Hoefle, author of DUCT TAPE PARENTING for sharing her insight into how her and her husband brought two different families with two different styles together. Some of her suggestions were woven into the list above.
You are welcome to come over to my facebook page where I continually post free parenting help.