by Laura Gangler, Chaos Free Parent Mentor
My husband leaves the house before 6:00 AM, so I take the morning “shift” with our kids, he takes evenings. Playing with them after dinner and reading books before bed often makes up the majority of his time with them.
Before coaching, I remember my generally upbeat husband slogging through the evening process that seemed to last longer every day. He would get one in the bath, help them rinse out the over-abundance of shampoo and monitor that they washed every last part – “yes even that one.” “And that one.” “Definitely that one.”
With one wrapped in a towel and wrestling the other to start their bath, my usually patient, slow-to-anger husband would descend into frustration. From the kitchen, I could hear the volume of his voice rising.
- “Time to get dressed.”
- “You can’t run around naked.”
- “Please go and get dressed.”
- “PJs please!”
- “PJs. Now!”
- “Get your PJs on your body now or you are grounded in 3, 2…!”
I was happy to let him handle that while I cleaned the kitchen. I was even happier that he didn’t see me spiral into a raging lunatic as I got them ready to leave each morning. Imagine waking up to Mary Poppins but being driven to school by the Hulk.
When we started ADHD coaching for our first-grade son, the biggest issues we faced were emotional control, keeping Legos off the floor, and constant need for reminders to accomplish anything. A few weeks into coaching was the Progressive Independence session. That was the session where several things clicked for me.
With a child so young, I didn’t think about independence very much. I assumed our kids would watch what we did, and they would know what to do. After that lesson, I thought about all of our routines, ones we’ve done almost daily for their whole lives. I thought about my husband and the dreaded bath time routine. My 6-year-old son couldn’t remember the three simple steps for getting ready for bed – bath, brush teeth, PJs – even though we had repeated the same routine every day of his life. Why couldn’t he just do it on his own by now?
Mary gave us the answer. Something big shifted for us that night. I realized my son’s performance wasn’t the rightful source of our irritation. Our expectations were out of line with his capabilities. We had skipped crucial steps in teaching him how to do these things, yet we still expected him to be able to do them.
We focused on the evening routine. My husband was motivated to get the kids through their routine so he could get back to having fun with them. Whatever the motivation, I was thrilled to see him go all in.
The first step, to make sure our kids knew what outcome was expected when we asked them to “get ready for bed”. Instead of just giving orders we made sure they knew what the end result looked like. Then we made sure they knew how to do each step. It turns out it’s more than just three steps!
Once they knew what our expectations were, my husband guided them through the process of getting ready for bed, the same way, every night. I even created a little chart they could use to check off each step. That lasted just a few nights. It turns out we didn’t need it. Before long, they were doing some steps without prompting.
Most importantly, he stayed with them to make sure they could do it many times over before he let them go completely on their own. Now when their dad says it’s time to get ready for bed, both of our kids go shower, brush their teeth and put on their pajamas. The whole process doesn’t take long, and they do it completely by themselves, of which they are very proud. Plus, their dad is happy with the extra play time to with the kids.
But the true first step was shifting our expectations. As soon as we stopped expecting our young kids to behave like little adults and do more than they are capable of – more than we set expectations for – we were both calmer. The Hulk hit the road; Mary Poppins was the new boss in town.
Now, if we could just end the age-old argument about whose turn it is to shower first.
If you would like to learn the method we used in our family, CLICK HERE and enroll in Chaos Free Family.
Current Chaos Free Family participants can LOGIN and learn more about this concept in the Progressive Independence lesson.
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