My New Year’s Resolution – Create a Nag-Free Zone
This year I have broken my rule of never making New Years’ Resolutions (because I am never committed enough to them to keep them), and I have actually made quite a few!
One of them is to find a way of preventing or averting the daily nagging that goes on in our house, particularly around Screen Time, Homework, bedtime and getting ready for school in the morning.
Over the years I have tried many, many different methods suggested in lots and lots of parenting books, and none have worked, partly because we have never succeeded in making them ‘habit’ but partly because they just don’t seem work for me and my child. Elaine Aron notes the difficulty that parents of HSCs have in obtaining support/guidance: the ‘problems’ that HSCs present with are often not ‘problems’ in the traditional sense, and HSCs reaction (mortification, shame, incredulity) to the basic ‘consequences’ approach is often not typical of that of other children.
BUT, we still need to set the boundaries, we still need our children to do what we need them to do, often when they don’t want to do it, so here’s HOW…
Be Mindful and Connected
There are two things I have chosen to try to do differently this year, which involve more Mindful and more Connected parenting (note I say try because I know I won’t succeed all the time and it will take practice, and patience I don’t yet know I have!!).
- Choose Your Battles
Following some wise words from my late dad, I will be more focused on what it is that I am trying to change. In other words I will “Choose my Battles” (thanks dad!): I will actively decide what I want and need to give my energy to and I won’t waste my time and energy battling other things.
To help me do this, I have prioritised. I have looked at the behaviours that bother me and I have dug deep to identify those things that are truly an issue (things that I need to tackle, because they are about my HSCs life skills, or are a major source of conflict), those things that are a bit annoying and cause some conflict and frustration, but are less important in the overall scheme of things (things I would like to change) and those things that actually, whilst they are a bit irritating, it’s probably not worth entering into battle over (things I can live with).
The things I need to tackle, for us, are those that are causing regular friction and disharmony, and/or where I am concerned for my HSCs’ well-being (too much screen time, not getting enough sleep).
2. Focus – One Thing at a Time
Having established the list and prioritised, I am now going to work through the list, one thing at a time, so I can truly focus my energy. Once the top priority is sorted, I can move onto the next.
Priority No.1 for 2016: The Morning Routine.
So this isn’t the first time I have sighed deeply to myself after a morning of shouting and yelling and nagging my HSC to get up, to eat breakfast instead of playing/reading, to get dressed, to do teeth, to make sure school bag is packed. It isn’t the first time we have parted company at school both stressed, and with me feeling full of regret at how badly wrong it all went, again. I have tried ‘agreeing’ with my HSC the time by which we need to leave the house, and working backwards to set the time for when he needs to be going up to get dressed etc. I have tried schedules, I have tried insisting that he gets dressed before he comes down for breakfast. I have felt the need to confiscate anything that he could ‘fiddle’ with whilst eating. I have sent him to school with no breakfast. The list goes on, and here we are, another year on, still having horrible mornings.
There are all sorts of reasons why these strategies haven’t worked, but the biggest by far I now believe, are that I am not being Mindful, and nor am I connected with my Child at these times. Moreover, as a consequence, he is not ‘connected’ with me or what he needs to do.
When I sat back and reminded myself of some of the common characteristics of Highly Sensitive Children, especially stubborn ones, there are quite a few that are particularly relevant to the morning routine:
- Hate being rushed
- Hate being asked to do things they don’t want to do
- Find transitions difficult
- Easily distracted by more ‘interesting’ things
- Sensitive to subtleties (including emotional cues, like you getting stressed)
As I was pondering this I came across some advice from Jennifer Kolari (Connected Parenting) aimed at helping children to deal with transitions, and in particular mornings. It resonated with me, because it is simple, yet in one swoop tackles all of the above, I have started to use this approach, and for me, it works. This past week, when I have used it, we have been out of the house, with minimal or no argument, on time. When I have reverted to our ‘old ways’ the usual stress, nagging, shouting, refusals have been very evident.
Make Sure you Allow Enough Time
The first light bulb was a simple statement: “Kids need at least an hour and a half to get themselves up and out in the morning.” I already knew that our morning schedule was time pressured, and that getting up earlier was a significant route to a smoother morning routine, but somehow seeing a defined time-scale, in print, made it seem so much simpler.
Set a framework, upfront: Contain activity in bite sized chunks, no surprises
The second light-bulb moment was the idea of a morning ‘window plan’. I’d already realised that having timelines could be helpful (I’d already tried setting some ‘targets’ as mentioned above), and I had realised that my HSC needs some time to wake up properly, to ‘mentally prepare himself for getting into ‘school’ mode. I had just not happened upon the best way of actually going about it.
The suggestion is to use ‘Windows’ of time allotted for specific purposes. So wake them up when you wake up, an hour and a half before you need to leave the house. Tell them that they have a window of 20 minutes of ‘free time’ to do with as they choose, they can read, stay in bed, watch TV (you may opt to put some limits on this, for example I won’t allow screen time before school – but beyond that there is free choice), after which, they enter the next 15 minute window (e.g. getting out of bed, dressed,washed/showered, teeth cleaned) then the next window (breakfast), then the final window for getting bag packed, shoes on, coat on, etc…..5 minutes before the end of each window, give a warning that the window is almost ‘up’.
It really does work
On the days I have managed to get up an hour and a half before we need to leave the house, this method has really worked for us (I just need to do deal with my dislike of getting out of bed so I can make sure this happens everyday). I believe it works because:
- It builds in that all important time so the HSC doesn’t feel rushed; they have time to sort out the seams in socks, or the thing they’ve forgotten, or that distraction that has waylaid them;
- There is clarity upfront about what is expected of them,
- They have some ‘personal time’ before they have to get into doing all the things they would rather not be doing;
- The warnings give them a ‘heads-up’ to help with the transitions;
- The 20 minutes time this creates for me at the start of the day also sets me up in a calmer frame of mind – it gives me time for a coffee, and just to get my head straight so I’m dealing with the day from a place of calm and a feeling of having ‘time’, allowing me to be more Mindful and to have the space to connect with rather battle with my HSC.
I am also trying to remember to make a point of praising when the right things are done, which in truth is most of the time – I so often find that I forget to do this, because that’s when things are easy, and I take it for granted.
My next task will be to try the Window planning for screen time – watch this space!
If this pings some light-bulbs for you, we’d love to hear your comments. If you’d like further advice and guidance from us, please take a look at How we Can Help to see what we offer and get in touch!