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it’s that time again: stop the nagging

This isn’t a new one, but as school gets into full swing I hear myself nagging and barking orders through the chaos.  It’s time to get back to basics, as in this oldie but goodie that I shared on AnnArbor.com today:

pointingHow’s your morning routine going? Do you hear some variation of this tape running every day:

“Get dressed. . . you’ve got to eat breakfast. . .brush your hair. . . do you have your homework? . . . don’t forget your lunch. . . did you brush your teeth?. . .remember I’m picking you up today. . . “

Now, don’t you think, after hearing this tape several hundred days a year, our children (or spouses?) would know what to do in the morning without our constant reminders?  Maybe not.  If we constantly remind them, there’s no need to remember on their own.  And whose fault is it when they get to school without lunch?  Ours, of course.  We didn’t remind them. 

There’s a simple solution:  Check Yourself

It works like this:

  1. Set expectations
  2. Provide a system for success
  3. Say, “check yourself” and hold your tongue
  4. Let the consequences do the teaching
  5. Enjoy your coffee

This works wonders for kids of all ages.  When my kids were 4, 6, and 9, we created a simple checklist for morning, after school, and bedtime routines.   We talked about how this would make those parts of the day easier for me and for them.   I posted it on the door, and when morning came, I would just say, “check yourself” or “check the list.”  It took some time to adjust, but soon they learned to take on responsibility for the routine.

The critical piece is this:  If they forget something on the list, we have to let the consequence happen.  So if he forgets his homework, the response is, “Bummer.  What are you going to do about that?”  Definitely empathize, but without “shoulds” and “I told you sos”.  I need to let my child be frustrated with his forgetfulness, not my blaming.  If I decide to rescue him (which I’ll admit I typically do once a season), I’m fully aware that it delays the lesson.  Chick Moorman puts it like this:

  1. Rescue once? you’re a nice mom
  2. Rescue twice? it becomes an expectation
  3. Rescue three times?  Congratulations.  You have a new job. 

I hope to teach my children to self-monitor and take on little responsibilities, so they become responsible adult citizens.  Also, I’m lazy and don’t want to do all the work around here.    

Do we still have chaotic, crazy mornings?  Of course we do.  I mess this up a lot.  But when I’m using this strategy, it works for me.  I hope it works for you too.

photo credit: bookgrl

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