“But mom I feel cold!”
Those were the only words he had to use to help me know I needed to change direction.
It was a simple but effective exchange between my son and I as we hit a bump in our morning routine. Through it, my heart swelled with joy as it represented a milestone in the one thing I have been trying to instill in my kids; giving my children a voice that is respected. It’s not an easy task, one we work on daily, but the elements are starting to make their way into our daily life.
In our home we have a lot of routines. The routines are especially important for my middle child who deals with sensory differences and craves predictability more than most kids. Let’s face it though, most kids do well when they know what is expected.
In the morning my kids get up, eat, get dressed, brush teeth and if they get all that done before 7:40 they can have one episode of Netflix before heading to school. It’s our routine, they know it, it doesn’t change.
Natural and Set Consequences
This morning was one of those mornings where the kids stayed up too late (despite our best efforts…we can’t MAKE them sleep) and were dealing with the consequences of that choice. One is grumpy, and all of them had a hard time getting out of bed. I like allowing natural consequences to be felt and try to allow those to serve as the teachers in our home so I don’t have to carry the burden of being the consequence deliverer at all times.
Because of this, everyone was running a little. The boys took a little longer to get out of bed, and my middle son was refusing to get dressed.
Avoid Power Struggles
Most mornings I lay clothes out for my middle son. It’s easier and helps him not feel so stressed out about making too many choices in the morning. I had made sure to include his favorite clothes, but he wasn’t having it, he was not getting dressed. He preferred to stay cuddled up on the couch and hold his ground. I learned a long time ago that power struggles are something I try to avoid as often as possible. To me they being unnecessary stress and in the end nobody really “wins.”
When I said “your clothes are on the couch. As soon as you get dressed you can have your games.” He started to put up his defenses, but there was nothing to push against. I wasn’t pushing, I was reminding, not threatening. He responded by saying “but I feel cold! I don’t want to take off these clothes!” I then asked if he would like his clean clothes to be warmed up in the dryer so he could put on clean, warm clothes to get ready for the day. He was satisfied with that answer and after that things went smoothly. It was simple, nobody had to stand their ground, no battle had to be fought, he had needs, I had a routine to respect, and together we made it happen.
My kids are used to this by now and know that they have a voice when it comes to making decisions. Giving our kids the space to have a voice, and to say “no” without fearing harsh punishments is something we are also allowing in our home. The concept sounds so foreign and passive for parenting. The logic behind it was gained through the book Boundaries where it teaches that as children learn to say “no” in a safe and loving environment, they learn to respect their own opinion and create necessary boundaries in their own lives. With this element in place, the need for rebellion is decreased significantly because there is a solid foundation of respect and understanding between parents and children before the age of rebellion begins.
Giving Children a Voice
I have seen the power of all these elements in our home as my children are learning that their view is respected but not always heeded. This morning my son was able to avoid a meltdown because of these skills. He voiced his needs, I listened, and we came to an acceptable compromise within the boundaries of the rules we follow in our home.
I respected his needs, in return he respected the routine. No matter the behavior, no matter how strong willed the child, this is a formula anyone can adopt to create less tension and stress in a home. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and there isn’t anything that is infallible. Tempers will be shorter some days and patience wears thin. With practice and patience, exchanges like this have helped make our life more understanding and tolerable. These are the concepts I strive to teach, these are the moments that make my mommy heart swell with joy.