I recently had a discussion with another mom about how hectic mornings can be trying to get everyone successfully out the door. I told her that on some level, I know that it is my attitude and energy that sets the tone for the day. It is especially hard to ‘rise above’ and be calm, happy and positive when my boys tumble down the stairs in a loud, angry scuffle. If I am reactive, this usually only makes the scuffle exponentially worse. She agreed but then said that summertime mornings aren’t so bad overall. This is because everyone is more relaxed, there’s less pressure and most importantly, no homework to remember. But again, it all comes down to the person in charge. If summer is a more relaxed time for you, then it is going to be a more relaxed time for everyone in your family.
How do you keep this sense of calm throughout the year? I think it all comes down to making a conscious effort to keep the peace. I find I do so much better if I have a few minutes of quiet before the boys get up for the day. It could be as simple as a five-minute breather to get myself centered and ready for the day. I also try to greet them with enthusiasm in the morning. I put myself in their shoes and imagine how I would wish to be greeted. If I came downstairs and saw a glowering face staring up at me, I’d most likely turn right back around and go to bed. Or, if I had a sibling nearby, I would unleash my uncomfortable feelings of rejection on him or her, and most likely not in a gentle, hugging sort of way. On the flip side, if once I made the descent from my room, and I saw someone smiling at me and genuinely happy to see my face, I would be more inclined to feel good about myself and the day ahead. I might even be able to leave my sibling unscathed (maybe).
So, what happens if you greet your children warmly and their behavior still is less than desirable? You still might be able to save the day if you ‘rise above’ and don’t engage immediately. I find that redirecting their attention is often helpful. Most children especially like to talk about themselves and if you can get them talking about a dream they had the night before, or what happened in a favorite video game they recently played, it might help them forget about what they are upset about. If they are younger, giving them a favorite toy or taking a few minutes to look at book together might be helpful. There are times when even redirecting doesn’t work. This is when I go into ‘ignore mode’. It’s surprising how much a mom can ignore. I’ve gotten really good at it so even if there is a fight escalating or someone giving me a bad attitude, I can act as if it isn’t happening. Of course if there is a chance for physical harm, I do have to intervene. Even so, I try to do so in a way that doesn’t acknowledge the behavior at hand.
After all this, there are some mornings that I can’t get it together. I get frustrated and I’m not able to be enthusiastic first thing in the morning or I get sucked into the energy of my boys fighting. Not every morning is going to go smoothly and that’s okay. As long as the good ones outweigh the bad ones, I consider myself ahead of the game.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent