Since school started, I’ve been getting a text each morning from my wife after she drops the kids off at school and daycare and before she heads off to work. The messages run the gambit from “The kids were a mess and I’m going to be late again,” to “Everyone was really helpful and I got them dropped off early” and all points in between.
Getting our kids into a morning (and for that matter, an afternoon) routine each school year is a challenge. There are multiple factors to juggle from school start times changing, new preferences in breakfast foods, growing desires for independence, and, of course, the chance that any of our kids will decide to imitate a brooding teenager (yes, even the three-year old).
Disruption in the morning bleeds into our afternoons. Arriving late to work means staying later at work. Poor mornings often yield grumpy afternoons when our kids try to imitate Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And, of course, we come home from work lugging our own baggage of challenging meetings, complicated projects, and looming deadlines. The key to staying sane has been a willingness to innovate and adapt our parenting strategies as we strive for a routine that meets everyone’s needs.
As we looked at the challenge of our mornings and afternoons, we thought about what was important. My wife needed to get to work on time. The kids needed to do things for themselves. They needed to eat a healthy breakfast and so on.
Wit these values in place, we started playing with the supports for each child, recognizing that they needed an individualized approach because of their personalities and ages. One child got a checklist to mark off while another helped us develop a schedule for herself so she could have time to read in the morning. We made it easier for the kids to put away their bags after school by assigning them each a bin in the front of the house and then shuffled them around when one child couldn’t pick the bin up to put it away.
And when these changes didn’t work as plan, we developed new iterations based upon observation and feedback from our kids, even when we sure that we had picked the right strategy. We’ve experimented with timers and clocks, discussed consequences, and even tried coordinating keeping siblings from eating at the same time.
Most people would think we were grasping at straws, but we’re not.
As self-proclaimed innovative parents, we recognize that we need to see each aspect of our parenting as a work in progress. Innovation in the business world means trying new things and so does innovation in parenting. We need to be willing to change and mold our tactics if we want to be successful.
Good innovation means being in tune with your audience and observing what’s happening. Innovative parenting pushes you to be more in tune with your child’s needs. Thinking about our mornings and afternoons through this lens allows us to adapt and let go of our rigidity as parents. When pay attention to what our kids are telling us, verbally and nonverbally, and then use that information to create the routine and structure for our before and after school home life, we get closer and closer to seeing our values in place.
And my wife gets to work on time.