I’ve heard it again and again from my children, I’m a micro-manager and try to orchestrate things too much to fit the way I think our schedule should progress. They prefer a looser schedule and don’t want me urging them to keep moving forward on a timetable. There’s some truth to their claim because I am pretty obsessive about being on time (as all of my friends know by now) and it bugs me to no end when anyone else is late, particularly when it’s easily prevented by just, well, keeping your darn eye on the clock!
Still, that’s my stuff, and no-where does it crop up more than in the mornings as we prepare to head out to school. With older children, I certainly don’t see it as my responsibility or task to make breakfast and lunch: certainly at 13yo my daughter K- should be more than capable of pouring out a bowl of cereal or making a slice of toast. Lunch is a bit more tricky because she’s indecisive and many mornings can’t decide what she wants from our often fairly limited set of choices.
Time. It’s about time. It’s about realizing how long something takes to prep and cook and working backwards. If she wants to cook up mac & cheese for lunch, she needs to factor in time to mix it, time to drain it, time to boil the macaroni and, just as importantly, the time it takes to get a saucepan of water to a boil in the first place. That doesn’t always happen so gracefully, and the other morning she was 2min from being tardy because she figured she had plenty of time to cook lunch and really didn’t have that much time at all.
To deal with the stress of seeing her not manage her time well, I have taken to heading out to the car and listening to the radio while waiting for her to join me. No yelling, no hassles, no issues with me getting more and more anxious as the clock ticks closer and closer to her being late.
It’s really a part of a parenting philosophy that I really ascribe to: natural consequences. It works best with kids who understand cause and effect, but certainly a teen is more than capable of getting that they’re responsible for their choices and the outcome of those choices. In this instance if she can’t make up her mind and can’t figure out what to have for lunch, she can go without. Inability to choose and execute -> natural consequence of no lunch and being hungry.
Yesterday I tried using natural consequences for the entire morning ritual, to combat the micro-manager accusation. And to K’s credit, it worked out really well! I walked into her room at 7:00am and told her I wasn’t going to come in again, I wasn’t going to check to see if she gets up, at around 7:45 I’d be heading to the car, and by 8:00am sharp I’d leave. If she wasn’t in the car, she’d be stuck at home. She doesn’t have much breakfast (even if I do get enthused and cook) so I was more interested in when she’d actually get out of bed without me nagging, and when she’d finally head down to the kitchen.
7:18 and it was darn quiet in the kitchen. 7:20. 7:22.
I cracked at about 7:25 and yelled up, just once: “Are you up?” A muffled answer suggested she hadn’t fallen back asleep, and that’s all I wanted to know. About 7:35 she came downstairs, dressed and ready to go. She then started to cook up some breakfast and was her usual indecisive self regarding a lunch option, finally deciding roughly when we usually leave that she’d have soup. “Can you heat it up for me, please?” I did. Easy enough. She prepped her breakfast, checked SnapChat on her phone, and we walked out the door at 7:55, showing up at school about 10min later than we usually do, but still 5min before she’d have gotten a tardy from the teacher.
My thoughts: I am over-managing mornings. K- did great steering her own ship even without any warning in advance. She was exhausted when I went to ensure she’d woken up at 7:00 and I’m sure she lay in bed for at least 10-15min, but that was her choice and she compensated by speeding up the rest of her prep. Nicely done!
Now, how about you? How can you test natural consequences with your child or children within a constrained space? One suggestion, if you need one: homework. If they have homework and don’t want to work on it, let them get a bad grade or get in trouble with the teacher. For most kids, that’s a quickly self-correcting problem.