I have spent a lot of time reading articles and online blogs on parenting. One thing that has really stood out is how well children respond to routine. And let me tell you, I have instilled some routines in my own home and I am seeing the benefits. My stepson is now 9 years old and he does his whole morning routine without me telling him what to do or having a chore chart he needs to look at or check off. There was a time where I did both of those with him for months at a time but what I ultimately learned was neither kept him on a routine. So I changed tactics and once I established a routine for him and would remind him of the order, he began to complete specific tasks and only needed reminders here and there. Just recently I started noticing the only things I had to nag him about were waking up on time to get ready for school and to get out of the shower before the house ran out of water.
I also decided he was old enough to get an alarm, but before he had a chance to think of it as a negative thing, I explained it to my stepson in a positive way. I told him he would start by waking at 7 am (I felt that was enough time for him to do all of his stuff for school without rushing) and I informed him if he felt like he needed more time we could make it earlier. If after a while he decided he wanted more sleep and could get ready for school in a shorter amount of time we could make his wake up time later. He was okay with it and that night he was excited to set his new alarm. It wasn’t anything fancy, just an old one we had in our room that wasn’t being used. He woke up to his alarm the next morning and started his routine, as we had been doing the last few months. The same time we started using the new alarm we also brought back into the routine a shower timer we used to use. When he begins his shower he turns it over and it sets the time for five minutes – now again something I don’t have to nag him about doing, aka no surprise knocking to get out of the shower. Don’t get me wrong there is still the occasional shower that outlasts the timer; sometimes I let it slide, other times I do a quick reminder of “hey did you turn your timer?” Both the alarm and timer have saved me so much of the petty nagging I was doing in the morning that would set him off and get our morning off to a bad start.
Now our mornings run quite smoothly – he will wake up to his own alarm, make his bed, choose clothes that he knows we would approve of, walks to the bathroom and gets dressed or showered depending on the night prior. He will then come out and make his lunch, which again was another lesson that took a few months (I’ll talk about that a bit later). After he makes and packs his lunch, he will make his breakfast and put his dishes in the dishwasher when he is done. The best part about him doing all of this without a fight is my toddler has started to make her own lunch for the day, and all of my children will put their dishes in the dishwasher. By working hard to set a good routine with our oldest, we are seeing it trickle down and set a good example for the younger kids. Again they are not perfect and this doesn’t happen every day but with some small reminders of how capable they are they will do almost anything.
My son used to despise making his own lunch because he doesn’t do it at both houses so he felt like he didn’t need to, but when I had a toddler and a breastfeeding newborn I had to find ways to make my mornings flow easier and he was quite capable of making his lunch. In order to give him motivation to make his own lunches we encouraged him to make what he wanted, within reason. I informed my stepson the best part about making your own lunch is you choose how to make it and what you want in it. The first few days when he would get home from school we would ask him if he was happy with his lunch and if there were things he would change about it, less jelly, or different bread, etc. Now he happily makes his lunch, picks one fruit and one snack to go along with his sandwich. It’s amazing how much encouraging him to do the things he is capable of doing has made him proud of the things he can do.
So if you would like to nag your children less, find a routine that works for your family. You might have to stick to it again and again but one day it will stick. You and your children are capable, I believe in you.
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