Morning Routine Check-Up

Good Morning,

Katowice - Przedszkole nr.6

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As I mentioned last week, now is a good time to review your routines.  I was talking with some moms last week as they were discussing how their children liked their preschools and their teachers.  One of the moms mentioned that things at school were going great, but it was hard to get her child out the door in the morning.  “He cries and doesn’t want to go, but once he is there he is fine and goes right into playing with the other children.”

For this mom, I had the following advice:

  • If your routine isn’t working, change it.
  • Remind your child of the expectations in the morning.
  • Have things ready the night before (lunch and breakfast, clothes, school bag, sports equipment, etc.) to take the guess-work out of the morning.
  • Only leave enough time to get ready and get out the door.  There is no need to rush, but stay focused.
  • Keep the routine consistent.
  • Realize that it is not that your child does not want to go to school, rather they want  you to give in to them.
  • Keep your discipline consistent and have consequences for not following directions.

If this is an issue that you are also experiencing, I encourage you to employ the ideas above.  Look to see where your child usually breaks down and eliminate that area.  Make the morning fly by so that there isn’t time to think about putting up a fight or crying about going to school.  Your situation may differ from the one presented here so contact me to get personalized strategies for your family.

Sites worth checking out:
Nighttime routine 
 
Manage Morning Mayhem

9 Steps To A Great Morning Routine for Kids

If you found this advice helpful please subscribe/like/tweet/pass on.

Good Luck,

Katherine

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Taking Stock in the Middle of First Semester

Mathematics homework

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Good Morning,

Here we are at the end of October.  The holidays are just around the corner and we are into the second half of the first semester in traditional-calendar schools.  How would you say your child is doing?

So far you should have been to parent-teacher conferences and established a working relationship with your children’s teachers.  You may have already volunteered at the school or taken part in planning a classroom party.  If you have not done these things, it is not too late.  In the middle of the first semester is an ideal time to take stock and set up a plan for the rest of the school year.  Here are the areas to review and ways to make the most of this school year.

Routines
How are your routines?  Are you getting out of the house on time and with all the things you need?  Are there any areas where you can shave off even a few seconds to make things go more smoothly?  Take a look at this morning routine blog to get some ideas.  How is your nighttime routine?  Are your kids getting to bed on time and getting enough sleep?  Have you established a homework and after-school schedule?  At this point, sports should be scheduled and planned for the rest of the school year.

Academic Status
Many parents sit with their kids and help with homework.  If this is the case, you should know where your child struggles academically.  Many kids say they do not need help and therefore parents do not know the state of their skills.  Sit with your child a few days a week.  Go over their homework with them and answer any questions they might have.  One way to break the ice in this area is to approach them after dinner, while they are doing their homework, with some ice-cream in hand.  Be sure to take some mental notes so you can follow up later.  Doing this over the course of a few days (or weeks) will ensure that you are seeing the correct struggles, and not just one tough assignment.

Communication with Teachers
If you have been to parent-teacher conferences, you have a good idea where your child stands regarding the year’s expectations.  If you have not had the opportunity to organize a one-on-one conversation before now, call and schedule a time for you to meet and talk about your child.  Bring up any concerns you have.  You should see if what you experience at home matches what happens at school.  Ask the teacher for a basic guideline for the rest of the school year so you can prepare mentally to help your child.  If there are areas where your child is struggling, now is the time to ask for help either from the teacher or a private tutor.  Many teachers offer private tutoring after school as a way to make some extra money.  This is an easy way to get some personalized help for your child by the person teaching the materials daily.  If you do not love your child’s teacher, ask around for a reputable tutor.  It is well worth the time and money to ensure your child understands the material presented in school.

Behavior
Every time a friend or acquaintance returns to high school for their reunion, I hear the same story.  People haven’t changed and everyone fell into the same cliques and petty behavior.  It is the same for your child.  They return to the same group of kids every year.  You can expect some of the same unwanted behaviors year after year as well.  If you are one of the hundreds of parents looking at your child’s behavior issues and thinking, “I thought we were over this,”  or “I thought they had outgrown that,” not to worry, there is still time to get that issue resolved.  If your child’s behavior concerns you, talk to their teacher or the school’s psychologist, nurse, or counselor.  If you can admit that you have not been the most consistent with behavior expectations at home, now is the time to get on the ball and take control.  If you need help, contact a Family Behavior Coach, such as myself, in your area.  It is never too late to reach out for some support.

The unfortunate truth is that after Thanksgiving break students and teachers relax academically.  The end is in sight and a long two-week break sounds great.  Be prepared for this letdown.  Rev up your support of your children in order to finish the semester strong.  This will allow all of you to transition to the spring semester with confidence and a plan in mind.

Good Luck,

Katherine

Helping your child dress themselves

Bubble Dress

Image by arlyna via Flickr

Good Morning,

Welcome to Monday.  This week I will be providing quick tips and tricks to help with some of the most frustrating aspects of raising kids.  Today’s blog supplies some simple tricks to help your child get dressed faster and with less fuss.

In 1972 an ingenious children’s clothing line was started and changed the way moms dressed their kids.  Garanimals paired shirts and pants so that kids could easily and quickly pick out an outfit, saving time, money and headache for millions of families across the country.  Here are some easy ideas on how to make your own Garanimals and some other equally helpful tricks.

Organize clothing

  1. Wash all clothing
  2. Put into groups based on clothing type (pants, shirts, sweaters, socks, etc.)
  3. Identify 2 colors that are the base colors for the entire wardrobe (usually black and brown)
  4. Put clothing into groups based on their base color (do they go with black or brown?)
  5. Set aside clothes that can go with either base color

Select a method
Once you have your piles of clothes sorted by base color, it is time to label them for your child to easily put together.  There are a few different ways of doing this.

  • Take a permanent marker and place an identifying mark, like a dot, on the tag or collar of all shirts in a given base color.  Place the same mark on all pants that create an outfit.  I would recommend a black marker and another color that a child can easily differentiate.  You child can look at the dots and quickly pick out clothes that match.
  • I just came across printable iron-on transfer paper.  This stuff is amazing!  I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby, but I am sure you can find it at other craft stores or online.  To use this method, print out a small word or shape and iron it onto the piece of clothing in a hidden location (the inside hem, tag, etc.).  Here, the options are limitless.  Depending on your child’s interests you can use what ever pictures they want.  Pirates and dragons, princesses and fairies, cats and dogs, Dora and Diego, etc.
  • If marking clothes does not work for you, consider labeling the drawers or shelves.  The same ideas apply.  Put all base groups of clothing that belong together in the same drawer or on the same shelf.  You can even add socks and hair accessories.
  • If clothes are hung up in a closet, use different colored hangers to show the matching clothes.
  • For clothes that go with either base color, keep them together and have a shelf or drawer for them as well.  Do not label these.

Tips for Making it Work

  • Have all clothing easily reachable by your child
  • Put clothing away correctly every time
  • Be creative with the labels.  Have your child pick the identifiers that will work for them.
  • Get your child involved.  Have them sort the clothing into groups, pick a label, and a spot to mark.  If you are using the transfer paper, have them cut out the shapes and pair it with the groups of clothes.
  • Only put out clothes that fit, are in good condition, and are seasonally appropriate.  Keep out-of-season clothes in a box or where your child cannot get them confused with the wearable clothes.  Get rid of torn, stained, and too-small clothing right away.
  • Talk to your child about the new system.  Help them, if necessary, by redirecting and encouraging them to use the new system when they are struggling to get dressed.
  • Be patient.  New systems and routines take time to settle in.  Your child may need reminding of what to do or where to look to match clothes.  Reward them when they have the hang of it and are getting dressed in less time and with less struggle.

Any organizing system will take some time and effort upfront.  Make this a fun activity for you and your child to do together on a lazy or cold afternoon.  Re-evaluate and re-mark clothing every season or when your child gets new clothing (holidays, birthdays, etc.).

More great ideas from around the web:

Super bag idea from Beth at Organizing Junkie
Lots of great tips at eHow Family
Easy to follow strategies at How to be a Good parent
Harry at Plastic Storage Bins has some great storage solutions

Good Luck,

Katherine

Communication Basics: Couples Time

Couple in love

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

Yesterday I wrote about taking personal time for yourself and allowing the same for your children, along with some of the benefits of doing so.  While I was researching related articles for that post, I came across numerous sites related to couple time.  Couple time entails time away from your kids, with your partner.  It may mean a vacation, date night, or some time together when the kids are at school.

Couple Time Activities

  • Sleep in
  • Intimacy
  • Plan for future situations, vacations, and conversations
  • Evaluate the state of the family
  • Vent about your kids and get some feedback
  • Be around other adults
  • Do adult activities
  • Have an extra glass of wine
  • Pamper/Treat yourselves
  • Talk about different parenting strategies
  • Communicate in an adult way with your spouse

The most important benefit of spending time with your spouse is modeling good relationship behavior to your kids.  Often, after couple time, you will find yourself refreshed and with a renewed commitment to positive communication with your partner.  Communicating effectively to each other while showing respect and empathy goes a long way when teaching your children how to manage their own relationships.  Being in a long-term relationship/marriage is hard work and should be rewarded with a date night here and there.  One of my girlfriends said that when she was young, her mom would fix a stiff cocktail for her dad and sit and talk in the living room for an hour when he got home from work.  The kids were not allowed to bother them for any reason.  This seems old-fashioned to me, but they found a time and made it work.  I also know of parents eating by candlelight together after the kids go to sleep or getting up early together to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning.  There are lots of reasons to spend time as a couple, but the most important reasons are your own relationship and modeling good communication for your kids.

More articles related to this topic:

Budget Friendly Date Night Ideas

Top 10: Ideas for Valentine’s day (or other date night)

8 Thrifty Back to School Date Night Ideas

Good Luck,

Katherine

Communication Basics: Singing

Happy Children Playing Kids

Image by epSos.de via Flickr

Good Morning,

After last week’s vacation, I am back this week to provide additional blogs in the communication series.  It is no surprise that singing to and singing with your child offers numerous benefits.  Many parents are aware of the link between child development and singing.  Families have been singing together for thousands of years.  There are numerous examples throughout recorded history of people using everyday items, along with their voices, to communicate through music.

I remember my mother singing to me as a young child, her voice soft and comforting.  Many mothers sing to their children everyday, which is wonderful!  However, there are several easy ways to get more bang for the buck when it comes to singing to your child.  When I worked in the classroom I was constantly playing music that connected to the lessons.  As a Special Education teacher, I was continually surprised my first year by how much the students enjoyed learning through song and dance, and how much they retained.  Many of the best teachers incorporate singing or music into their daily schedules.  Shy students come out of their shell, struggling students take part with ease, and kids with attention issues have an avenue to get out their wiggles.  Singing in and out of the classroom is so much more than words and rhythm.  For many kids it is a link between academics and fun.

Below are some supplements to the ways that many of you already utilize singing with your children.  Making this time with your child really special, and fun for both of you, is the goal.  Practicing language, math, and motor skills is already built-in.  Singing is a way to communicate without formality and allows people to connect on a different level.

Music extensions:

  • Join a music class, invite friends and neighbors to join you
  • Host a kids cd swap at your house or play group
  • Make a playlist or cd with your child’s favorite songs to have in the car or give to friends
  • Make up your own movements to songs
  • Pull out scarves, hats, or costumes to act out songs or twirl while you sing and dance
  • Make up different words to songs
  • Sing before bed time instead of reading a book
  • Reward your child with new music or instruments
  • Sing bath songs in the bath with bath toys/instruments
  • Sing songs for getting ready, eating, going to bed, picking up toys, etc.
  • Put on a recital with your friends with songs and dancing
  • Use songs to help with academics, concentration, relaxation
  • Use different voices/inflections/accents like opera, country, robot, or create your own funny voice to change it up
  • Play electronic games like Rock Band, American Idol or Guitar Hero
  • Put on some quiet or peaceful music to relax after a stressful or angry situation
  • Attend local concerts and music shows
  • Play games in the car- whistle and name that tune, or stop singing and they finish the phrase, drum a song that they identify, etc.

Singing is an easy way to get in some fun time with your child regardless of the weather.  Plan time in your daily schedule during the winter months to play music or sing and dance.  There are many good websites where you can buy kids music.  Ask your child’s teacher what songs they are learning in class so you can practice at home and in the car.  Singing has far-reaching value for your child’s development as well as emotional and physical well-being.

Related articles:

Sing with Your Child with Confidence
How Singing to your Kids Improves Development

The Benefits of Singing to your Baby

The Songs Our Toddler Sings

How the Young Child Learns Music

Good Luck,

Katherine

Streamlining your morning routine

Good Morning,

As I mentioned in a past blog, I will try to offer as many ideas as possible over the next few weeks about going back to school.  I believe that the weeks leading up to school and the first few weeks back in school are the most important for setting the tone for the rest of the year.  Getting on a morning schedule as well as a night schedule, starting a communication pattern, and streamlining routines are keys to a path that puts less stress on the entire family.

I have done some research on making this blog accessible and easy to follow as far as the page layout.  Many sites recommend a list as a way to offer concise suggestions to the readers.  This is great for me because I love lists!  My life and thoughts usually end up in list format anyway.  I have also linked this blog to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  In the coming weeks please feel free to give feedback related to anything on this blog, the layout, content, social media connections, whatever.  I welcome your comments and hope to make this one of the best blogs out there.  Now, on to the good stuff.

As I mentioned, a morning schedule will dramatically cut down on morning stress.  Obvious indicators your child is less stressed: they fight less with you and their siblings, they are ready on time, and they have what they need for the entire day.  If you already have a morning routine, take another look at it this week and see if some new ideas might make it even better.  A good morning routine sets up the entire day for success.

an animated clock

Image via Wikipedia

Competition
Set a timer and have your kids race to see who can get ready fastest (correctly, of course).  Offer prizes or the front seat of the car as incentives.  Daily or weekly incentives are usually sufficient.  If someone is ready first and there are a few minutes left, have a game box by the back door.  Books, action figures, and trinkets are fast and easy toys to keep in the box.  The kid stays in one place and gets to play with the toy until it is time to leave.  Keep it simple.  I would not recommend electronic games here because they can be difficult to put down.

Warnings
Set a timer that goes off 10, 5, and 2 minutes before you have to be in the car.  This helps younger and older kids know how much time they have left.  If there is an issue you can say, “you have 5 minutes to figure this out.”  or “you might want to make a decision in the next 2 minutes or you will have to go without.”  This helps kids be responsible for their actions and stay on the timeline.

Portable Breakfast
Have a drawer in the fridge and in the pantry where kids can grab their own breakfast.  Bars, fruit, cereal in boxes or pre-made baggies, pre-made breakfast sandwiches, shakes, and instant oatmeal are all fast and easy for them to make themselves.  This takes the guess-work away.  It also allows them to eat in the car and spend more time getting ready or sleeping in.

Get ready the night before
Having as much as possible ready the night before will help to make the morning less hectic and more productive.  Getting school bags including lunches, coats, outdoor gear, sports gear, outfits, homework, and planners ready the night before cuts down on the amount of things that can be forgotten in the morning.

Same routine every day
For most kids, consistency in routine is key to making the routine successful.  Doing things in the same order every morning will help kids know what comes next.  Lists in the bedrooms, bathrooms, by the back door and in the kitchen will remind them of the schedule.  If your child cannot read, picture lists work just as well.  Get your kids involved by having them make the lists themselves or finding pictures they like on the web.  As time goes by the lists will become less needed.  At this point you can act from memory or create new and better lists.  Try moving the lists so that kids don’t just see them as part of the wall and overlook their benefit.  Lists will also help you to encourage your child to refer to the lists and not seek you for every next step.

Look for ways to streamline
Take a week to look at your routine and find places where there are challenges.  If your child always gets caught when tying their shoes or picking out breakfast, look for these areas and change those parts of the morning.  If the routine you have now is frustrating or causing tears and fights, change it fast!  Get the family involved and talk about ways to streamline with some ideas listed here.  If everyone is on the same page and you provide mutual support, things will go more smoothly.

Tough Love
I believe that tough love is one of the best tactics a parent can use.  In this situation, use tough love to make a child more responsible for themselves and their things.  Going without lunch, a coat, or their homework one day is not going to kill your child.  However, it will help them to remember the particular item the next day and many days after that.  If you are a parent who feels like a broken record when it comes to asking your child to do something, this technique can work wonders.  Tough love is an extremely effective way to teach your child the reality of consequences, although it takes practice and commitment from the parents.

Finding a routine takes time and patience.  It changes with your family’s needs but is very helpful when taken seriously by everyone.  Following the routine should be important.  Have consequences for not carrying through with it.  Get your family involved with finding a routine that works for everyone and keep the conversation productive.  Bad mornings will happen but a good morning is just one day away!

More articles related to this topic:
Getting Back on Track
Back to school Prep with Simplified Bee
Streamlining!
Back to School Time Savers
It’s Just Routine

Good Luck,

Katherine

Getting Back on Track

A mechanical kitchen timer

Image via Wikipedia

Good Morning,

The first few days back to school are the most difficult for everyone.  Even if you have everything in place, there is still some disconnect between good intentions and reality. Here are two ideas to help you get into school mode as painlessly as possible.

Morning routine
A solid morning routine is the best way to get on track fast.  Wake up at the same time and follow the same plan every day.  A consistent agenda every morning, until the family is out the door, cuts down on guess-work.  If the same things happen in a pattern every morning, there is little room to forget items or for fooling around.  Make lists and post them where you can refer to them as needed.  The lists help to remind you of the routine.  If your child is old enough to have their own list, encourage them to plan their morning.  If your child is not able to read, a list made of pictures will help them stay on track.  You can keep reminders in the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, by the back door, and in the car.  A routine allows your child to practice independence and show responsibility for themselves and their school things.

Night routine
Going through the same motions night after night also helps your family get on track and easily transition into a school rhythm.  While this may take a few weeks, patience is the key to making any routine stick.  A night routine also allows you to plan some one-on-one time with your child and catch up on the day.  Ultimately, the time at which your child goes to bed is the most important part of this routine.  Strictly enforcing a bed time sets the stage for success the following day, while keeping your frustration to a minimum.  Pick out books ahead of time and utilize a timer during evening baths.  This keeps you focused on bed time.  Eliminating the guess-work for your child is the easiest way to cut down on tantrums and fights.

Having an air-tight routine does not eliminate difficult nights.  I like to think of a routine as a living being.  It changes and grows with your needs.  Time and consistency aid in getting the family comfortable with any new routine.  Get older kids involved by asking them for their input in making and keeping a schedule.

There are many ways to keep a family schedule.  Family-specific suggestions may help deal with particular issues.  I would love to provide more specific tips for your family!

More articles related to this topic:

6 Ways to Speed Up Morning Routines
Kids Morning Routine Flashcards

Keeping Kids Organized

Morning Routines for Elementary School Children

Beat the Morning Rush

Kids Back to School Morning Routine

Evening Routine

Morning Routines for Preschoolers

Good Luck,

Katherine