Updated: Jul 1, 2021
We all have days where from the moment you get up it’s all seems to go downhill. And then you find the cat’s been sick, there’s no clean uniform and your child feels the need to move at the pace of a geriatric snail whilst arguing over anything they possibly can. Before you’ve even managed a mouthful of cornflakes you find you’ve become a screaming banshee.
And you think if it’s like this before breakfast the rest of the day ain’t looking so good. So here’s 5 things you can do when family joy and harmony is on the wrong trajectory:
1. Set Things Right
If it’s all gone to hell in a handbasket before you’ve even got going you are allowed to press pause. You may have to embrace being late, missing that activity/meeting or dropping something off the to do list later on in the day, but sometimes that can be the wisest step to alleviate the pressure and the ripple effect on the whole day.
Sometimes taking a costly moment to draw a line and almost reset the day can pay dividends later on. Please note I find it much easier to write this than do it in practice, but I know from experience those moments when it’s all built up that if I let go of the pressure to arrive on time at school or accomplish everything I had intended it usually helps significantly.
If you’re way beyond that and it’s long after the school run that you’re calm enough to even begin to think about what on earth just happened, it’s not too late. Having a conversation later in the day where you can acknowledge the day didn’t start well, apologise and work out together what you can do differently can be both an opportunity to reconnect and a valuable life lesson.
Our children don’t need us to be perfect, but they do need us to model what to do when it all goes wrong. When we show this by our actions these lessons lay great foundations.
2. Work out what was really going on
This is one for after the event, but it’s so valuable to step back and work out what was going on for you and your child. Was it really about the shoes/clothes/whatever set it off or is something else going on?
For example lots of children battle over getting dressed because they think it means they then don’t have to go out. It can be their way of communicating they’re not feeling great about the day ahead or many other things and pausing to listen and show you hear the message can shift the flow. Or perhaps your reactions to minor things are telling you that there’s something bigger and more significant which is bothering or concerning you? Work these out and it can be valuable information.
What patterns there are, especially if mornings are frequently stressful. Are you leaving enough time? Are you trying to accomplish too much? Are there particular days which are harder then others? When you know what’s influencing or setting off the problems you’re better placed to find solutions.
3. Notice what you’re telling yourself
During our years of fostering getting out of the house was hard (arguably it’s not much easier with young children). One of our children was particularly hard to wake up – possibly waking the dead may have been easier! In the times when I was telling myself over and over how he’d be late and how he wasn’t listening or trying that stress played out in how I handled the morning – it didn’t help my interactions. If I told myself others would judge me if my child was late it only served to increate the pressure.
I’ve learned that I need to be mindful of what I tell myself and sometimes you have to choose between positive connection and punctuality. Whilst that doesn’t mean my children can abdicate responsibility and amble through the morning it does mean that sometimes I’ll remind myself that we’re on time 99% of the time and it’s better to arrive late and in a positive state than have a massive conflict in our attempts to be punctual/organised/resolve an issue which could be done later etc. Ironically when we keep it positive we’re more likely to be punctual.
4. Find alternative ways
Another of our teenage foster children used to get up great, but organisation….. it felt like he needed constant reminding of almost everything he needed to do in the morning other than breathing. This evolved into feeling like we constantly nagged and nagged and the only difference it made was a morning routine which felt pretty negative. Eventually we decided enough was enough. Whether he was organised or not we weren’t happy with how we were handling it.
So we introduced a no nag rule for us. We worked out with him (again) what he needed to do and the times by which he needed to do it and wrote it out, along with times and an agreement. If he could do it by the agreed time we weren’t allowed to nag AND if we broke our part of the deal he could tell us off. He had his prompts, but we were no longer nagging UNTIL it was necessary rather than a routine part of the morning.
5. Make it fun
Sometimes making it fun is hard work, but it pays dividends. If we’d just given our teenager times to be organised by he’d have probably ignored it. The key was the no nag rule and permission to tell us off – this shifted the dynamic and keyed into his love of a challenge as well as focusing him on what he needed to do. He was delighted to "beat" us so we couldn't nag. For us it was a win/win.
With my younger children mornings involve a lot of role play and games. For a while we made up a going up the stairs song and went up as a train when it was time to clean our teeth. Sometimes when they’re pretending to be mischevious puppies using or some other character they’ll do things much more readily. I can’t make them enthusiastic to go to school, but I can help the flow of getting out of the house.
Making change is hard work, but so is battling your way through the morning. I can’t promise you easier mornings, but I would argue hard work which leaves you more positive and connected as a family is well worth the effort.
I help parents who are struggling with self doubt or wondering what on earth to do to tap into their expertise and find ways to best support their child and nurture their own wellbeing so they can make their family life a more positive and happier experience for the whole family. You can book a free taster chat to find out more at: https://calendly.com/optimumcoaching/appointment-with-julie-cresswell-clone