Sometimes it feels like we’re always hustling our kids through their routines so that we can get to the good stuff (reading together, snuggling, whatever your fancy.) But what if those little moments–the getting-things-done moments–actually are the good moments, if we make them so?
So much of your time with younger kids is putting them through their paces. My toddler can stretch a simple sequence (wake up, change diaper, put on clothes, eat breakfast, wash face) into an odyssey.
And you know, I used to fight her on this. Meaning, I’d be constantly telling her, “No, don’t play with that, we’re doing this right now.” I’d be annoyed with what she wanted to do and trying to refocus her on the task at hand: “If you get this done quickly, we can play.”
But that’s not how her mind works. She doesn’t want to wait to play; she wants to incorporate it into what she’s doing. Getting dressed is a time to have fun. She’s in the now.
So instead of fighting that aspect of kids, parents can learn from it. But in order to do that, you need to consider the essentials.
1) Leave waaaaaaaay more time than you think you need to do anything/everything.
If you’re inclined to start getting ready in the morning at 7 a.m. to leave at 8, go for 6:45 (or better yet, 6:30.) Then you won’t be stressed and short-tempered, and you’ll have room to enjoy the endeavor.
2) Shift your mindset so that it’s something to be enjoyed.
This is an important one. If you think you’re just supposed to get through transitions as quickly as possible, then any fun your child is trying to have becomes a diversion.
You might think that you need to send your child a no-nonsense, we’re-getting-things-done-not-playing-right-now attitude. But does it really work? Your child just thinks you need to have a little more fun yourself. They’ll redouble their efforts to get you to loosen up.
So don’t fight them, join them.
3) Think short-term.
For everything your child gets done (i.e. putting on clothes), then you can do the thing they’re clamoring for. So if your child is saying, “Let’s read this book!”, get them to do some part of your task (breaking it down into a component part, if necessary, based on their age and attention span) and then do the book.
The key is, let them know they don’t have long to wait. It can seem like an eternity to a child to read books after they’re completely dressed and have eaten their breakfast.
4) Realize that children are not just little adults.
Their brains don’t operate like ours. So if you’re spending time irritably thinking, “Why can’t they just get through the routine, we do the same one every morning?”, that’s a real waste of your time.
Respect the differences between children and adults, and make accommodations for them. This isn’t to say you need to indulge your child’s every whim in the morning or the evening or any time. It’s to say that you do need to incorporate fun into the structure, or your child will find his/her own way to do so.
5) Learn from your child.
Being fully present, trying to get the most enjoyment you can–this comes naturally to children, but is a skill that an adult can cultivate. So slow down and smell the flowers with your kids. Think in terms of journey rather than destination.
Your child will thank you, and you’ll be happier, too.