Fixing Bad Routines
There are a few routines at our house that work really great. For the most part, when we put our kids to bed, Gayle and I each jump into bed with a kid (praying that the beds don’t buckle under our adult weight). While in bed, we read a story or two, discuss the day, and wish the kids a good night. It works really well for our family. Sure, there is plenty of “Alistair get back into bed” and “Noble quit telling your brother to get back into bed and just go to sleep!” But the kids always end up asleep at some point. So that’s a victory, right?
We also have a pretty good routine in the morning as the kids get ready for school. The house is a buzz of motion as people are making lunches, dressing, and drinking coffee (no not Noble….Alistair needs it though, he’s a cranky two year old otherwise….Aaaaand I’m joking, put the phone down.) If you were a single, childless individual, you might think that mornings at our house are an explosion of uncontrolled chaos. And you’d be right, except that we know exactly what we are doing. It’s probably like being in a grocery store during an earthquake: shit is flying everywhere, you need to get out of the building – HOW you get out of the building isn’t relevant, you just need to get out. The difference between the earthquake store and our house before school is getting out IN time and getting out ON time. This analogy feels like a real stretch, but I don’t care because I enjoy the imagery.
There are some routines in our house that are not as ideal as we’d like them. One of these routines would be how Noble wakes up in the morning. He will head over to the couch, place a blanket over his lap, and call out as if to an inept butler, “I’m ready for my oatmeal now!!!” And if there is no answer within his limited window of patience, he will thrown in a very sarcastic, “Pleeeeaaase!” – as if just saying the word “please” should be considered good manners and ignite a fire under my butt.
Alistair has a routine that isn’t ideal as well. For him, if you bring him a glass of water in a regular cup during a meal, he will use it as a miniature lab experiment; placing pieces of bread, meat, vegetables, anything that will cram into the cup. Then, he will stir it with his hand and dump it on the dinner tray. It is annoying and gets under my skin for some reason. He also has a variety of unique ways of letting us know when he’s finished with his dinner. Sometimes he’ll let us know by throwing a piece of food at me. Sometimes he’ll announce it by discarding his silverware onto the floor. Sometimes he’ll lovingly, and slowly, tip his bowl over the edge of his high chair tray causing the remaining contents to be splattered across the floor. I’m not a fan of any of these end of dinner announcements. Sometimes I have to suppress the urge to grab a giant spoonful of mashed potatoes and flick it at HIS face…see how HE likes it. But while it seems like I would be vindicated, my hunch is that he would just start laughing, and an epic food fight would begin. And guess who would have to clean THAT up?
So how am I supposed to bust up a bad routine? Probably the best bet is to create new ones….although the kicking and screaming that goes along with that idea doesn’t seem too appealing. And therein lies the rub.
The times that I’ve noticed positive change in my kids are the times when I’ve been patient and consistent with consequences or redirection or whatever “trick” I’m using to modify their behavior. If I buckle a few times because I’m too lazy to deal with the B.S. tantrums, then the crummy behavior just keeps getting stronger. You know consistency is good when a complete stranger comes to you at the post office and tells you that it’s the one and only way to raise a child. I always listen to the wisdom of complete strangers, ESPECIALLY when they give unsolicited advice. I just pretend that “The Universe” delivered them to me with secret instructions on the best way to live. At the very least it keeps me from telling them to shut up and mind their own business. In this case, though, I thought the guy had some pretty good advice.
I’m just mentioning in case YOU wanted to fix a bad routine. Me: I’m gonna keep going with life the way it is and adjust when I need to. For now, I’m happy with responding to Noble’s breakfast bark by saying, “I’m ready for my oatmeal, too! Tell me when you’ve finished making mine…. PLEAAAAASE!” Sometimes mockery is good parenting, too, right? Anybody? High five? Nothing? Ok, I’ll try and be consistent too.