Moms, we’re the ultimate household authority, right? Your children hear your almighty word, drop whatever it is they’re doing, and swiftly respond with profound reverence. Isn’t that how it always goes?
Yeah, not in my house, either.
Personally, there are days that I get tired of the sound of my own voice. The nagging, pleading, begging, rationalizing ... and that’s just before school starts! And really, do any of the threats or negotiations help our kids progress down the path to self-motivation? If we moms are constantly badgering them to get stuff done, when are they going to be motivated to do things themselves?
When I get to the end of my rope, I look for creative ways to lay down the law. So if you’re at the point where you just can’t bear to hear yourself say, “Did you even hear what I said!?” for the millionth time, get some help from a book. No, not a parenting book, but a great piece of fiction. Starring your child. Written by you.
Dilemma: power struggles between Jake (age three) and his mom, Gina, have hijacked the morning routine, making them both late and cranky. Choosing an outfit, eating breakfast, getting into the car ... everything’s an ordeal. “Brush your teeth now—I mean, NOW!” and other threats fall on deaf ears. Tantrums abound.
Solution: Gina writes a fantasy storybook, starring Jake, called Jake’s Good Morning. In it, she details exactly how she wants things to go in the morning, complete with praise and consequences if things go wrong. Here’s an excerpt:
Cowboy Jake wakes up in the morning after a great sleep. Good morning, Jake! He plays with his toys and feeds his horse, Elroy. Then his mommy says, “Time to get dressed!” and helps him put on the outfit they chose the night before. [Picture of Jake all dressed.] Lookin’ good, Jake! If Jake doesn’t get dressed when mom asks, she warns him once. “Jake, this is your warning!” If Jake still won’t get dressed, his mom takes away his favorite toy until tomorrow, and then gets him dressed. [Picture of sad Jake.] Oh no, Jake! Mommy knows you’ll make a different choice tomorrow, buckaroo!
Why it works: transitions can be rough for kids, especially when they’re tired in the a.m. When you outline everything in a book starring your child, you add some fun and predictability to an otherwise stressful time of day. Read the book for fun when things are mellow so your child can commit it to memory. Make it lighthearted and non-threatening. In a magical way, the book does all the work for you: now that they know how the book goes, it reinforces the routine without all your nag, nag, nagging. It also bolsters their self-esteem (“My mom believes I can make good choices”), sense of responsibility (“My mom trusts me to do the right thing”), and optimism (“If I do what’s asked of me, good things will happen; If I mess up today, I can make a better choice tomorrow”). You don’t have to be an artist: stick figures are just fine. Better yet, get older kids to illustrate.
When your child stars in their own book, the fiction becomes a reality, and so does a peaceful morning.
Possible side effects: your child starts looking for his coverage in US Weekly. A star is born.