Over and Over Again
Sometimes my life feels like Groundhog Day! Each morning my alarm goes off at 5:55. For the next 50 minutes, I do what I need to do for me: I take a shower, do my meditation, make my coffee, sometimes sleep in a little, sometimes read a little. By 6:45, I am ready to get my kids going, armed with a smile on my face for the first wake-up call of the day. (Note: first).
My daughter, age 12 (not so much ADHD, but we often wonder), bounces right up (usually) motivated to primp, brush and eat in time to get out the door and make it to the bus stop to hang out with her girlies.
But my son… Oh man! What a Hot Mess!
Let me step back and fill you in a little. Mornings can be a nightmare at our house. I'm pretty sure we have tried everything to get the boy up and out in the morning. We've used motivators, consequences, empowerment, taking the blankets away, cold water (OK, I didn't approve of that one, but someone did try it once), yelling, bribing. You name it, we've tried it. We have yet to find the magic solution that really works!
It really hit home for me last week when two of my clients (different families) described scenes almost identical to the one I see regularly at our house. One Dad was over the top frustrated with his daughter, pulling his hair out wondering what to do. The other, a Mom, ended up removing herself from the morning routine because the emotions were getting so intense. Clearly this is a common problem for many of us as parents. But, what do we do about it?
Author's note: This info is so juicy that I ended up dividing this blog into two different posts. I hope you'll stick with me, read both sections and try some tips in both.
Part 1: Manage Yourself
- Like it or not, the place we always need to start is with ourselves. We would like to think that we can just control the situation and make our kids do what we want them to do. The reality is that the only thing we actually have control over is our reaction to the situation. The more calm and in control we are, the smoother things will go, every time! The minute we lose our cool, we lose control of the situation. In other words, we can't control what happens, we can only control how we respond to it.
When situations become a “hot mess,” there are likely lots of things that run through your head, sometimes all of them at once. “Typical" responses I hear from my clients are:
- Why is this happening? Maybe if I were a better parent...
- This has to stop - I can't tolerate it anymore and it has to be fixed...
- Is it the ADHD? Or is she just being disrespectful…
- I know it's her ADHD, and I feel completely helpless to do anything...
- I understand that her ADHD is involved, this totally stinks, and I have to do something to make it better...
Less typical responses I hear from my “calmer” parents:
- How can I help my child with this? It's clear that she is having a hard time and I want her to be more successful/happy/etc...
- I know we can come up with a solution that will help her and make all of our lives better.
- There is no good or bad to what is going on – it just is what it is. I know that there is a reason for what is going on here, but I don't know what it is.
In the midst of Morning Mania, we may experience some or all of these thoughts. When you reflect on the challenging situations in your house, what typically goes through your own head?
Take the next step, and reflect on what happens to your energy level with each thought. Does the thought increase or decrease your level of stress? Does the thought motivate or deflate you? How does looking at the situation from a different perspective (maybe one of the calmer thoughts above) help you to manage the situation?
Job #1, for most of us, is to get out of threat mode. Typically it's difficult to parent effectively with crazy stress hormones racing through your body. Do something to calm yourself in the moment. Then choose your reaction. Decide, in that moment, what you can tell yourself that will be the most helpful? Come up with a thought that will help you calmly take control of the situation, before you take any action. This is the thought I choose most frequently:
- How can I help my child with this? It's clear that he is having a hard time. I want to help him become more successful and independent.
The one thing that we always have control of in any situation is our reaction to it. Take advantage of it!
Part 2 is Managing Your Kid.
Click here for the continuation of Manage Morning Mania in Two (Simple?) Parts. I'll talk more about what to do once you are able to stay calm.