My “easy” child is now 13, and the outside world (the one I inhabit) at times holds way less interest than what her friends are doing, watching on TV, posting online, etc.
If physical effort is required, it usually prompts an eye roll and massive sigh. As if asking her to unload the car is akin to running a marathon. “But I just got upstairs, Mom!”
But she’ll spend hours exerting herself with sports or other activities.
(This is why I meditate – so my kids can survive to adulthood. )
In the photo above, hers would be the feet sticking out the window (she’s lying on the seat texting), and the guitar represents her intent to relax and enjoy life (no matter that the guitar is probably going to fall over at any moment!). I’m not pictured, because I’m already unloading my stuff from the car and schlepping toward the house.
I’d noticed that things were slowly falling apart with this girl, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was: “She can do this! What’s the problem?” I asked myself. Then it hit me – I’m the problem.
3 Reason Your Kids’ Routines are Shaky
1. You’ve become distracted. It’s easy to forget that your teen’s ability is not equal to action. Yup, follow through still depends on YOU.
Perfect example: cleaning out the car at the end of the day. For her, LATER is always the best time. I enter the garage with good intentions of overseeing complete unpacking, then forget as I start carrying 4 things into the house and thinking about what else I need to do when I walk in the door.
Sadly, this example pretty much proves the rule of three’s in my life: our energy returns to us as many times as needed until we learn the lesson.
Result of not following through on the routine: the homework due is in her backpack in my car – and she’s not in it!
Bonus #2: She brought stuff home to work on and obviously didn’t do it last night.
Bonus #3: communication and planning error on my part. I should have checked in to see what needed to be completed before I agreed to take her to the non essential activity after school.
Bonus #4: I’ll have the opportunity to resist the urge to rescue when she asks me to bring it to her at school! Finally, it might become a problem for her.
The domino effect at work…
2. You don’t enforce the other parts of the routine that lead to ____ getting done. I can really only focus on two things at a time. In fact, if there are two, the odds of the second one getting done is a total crapshoot.
Part of the problem is that she may be using her phone when we pull into the garage. She’s. Totally. Distracted.
I often don’t follow through to see that she unloads the car immediately because I’m already racing into the house. I’m distracted, too.
This makes me think I need to discuss a no phone rule on the way home. Ideally, we’ll use the time to connect and chat (which we mostly do anyway as we listen to horrible pop music on her phone). So no phone may not be the way to go…
Dang! Now I have to change my routine to make sure her routine happens. Options that come to mind:
a) put a sticky note in my car to remind me – unload car! I stick around in garage until I see her actually unloading her stuff. At that point, if the phone is the distraction, we can deal with that problem.
b) we talk about the routine and I ask her for ideas about how to solve the problem.
c) I realize part of the issue with this routine is that after we pull into the garage, she also goes into the backyard to feed the cats, using her phone flashlight to see in the dark. So while I get out of the car and unload my stuff, she sits in the car for a few minutes texting, then probably switches from texting to using the phone flashlight to feed the cats. Then forgets to unload the car on her way back through the garage. Hmmm…
Routines can be a tangled web, no?
3. The schedule has changed and the old routine doesn’t work anymore. Sometimes this sneaks up on me. I’ve only just gotten used to the latest sports/carpool schedule, and it changes. It take me a few passes before I realize it’s just not going to work anymore. Then, I need to re-think sequence, timing, systems (blech!) and involve the kids in creating something new.
Another opportunity to grow as a person!
- Re-commit to the routine (if it still makes sense). I still want the car unloaded, but the order of operations (unload, cats) may need to change.
- Slow down. I can remember that it’s not a race, and getting in the door 2 minutes faster doesn’t change anything, just leaves me feeling rushed. I can pause and respectfully request that she unload the car immediately (at least until it’s no longer a problem). Be mentally prepared to be pleasant and firm.
- Recall your long-term goals. We unload the car because I hate driving a “mobile land fill”, and I want her to learn life skills (organization, planning, responsibility). I can stay clear, direct and calm, even when she pushes back.
- Practice consistency. It has to be worth enforcing. I’ll think about creating a new habit to cue me that it’s time to follow through on the unload the car routine.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if she turns out to be a total and compulsively organized neat freak as an adult? Hope springs eternal!
What trips your routines up?
What will you do to get back on track?