My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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This Wednesday: Six tips for keeping school-day mornings calm and cheery.

Schoolbus2Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six tips for keeping school-day mornings calm and cheery.

Unbelievable, but school is starting up again. And that means that the early-morning scramble is starting, too.

I had a major insight about the challenge of keeping our school-day mornings moving along smoothly and peacefully.

Here’s the insight: I was focused on chivvying my children along. Wrong! I needed to worry about ME.

When I work on my own habits, mornings are much easier.

Here are some tips for keeping the mornings calm:

1. Get enough sleep yourself. I’m good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, but not so good about doing it myself. It’s tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:30 a.m. comes fast, and being overtired makes the morning much tougher.

2. Sing. As goofy as it sounds, I try to sing in the morning. It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone—particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf, and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.

3. Say “no” only when it really matters. Wear a bright red shirt with bright orange pants and bright green shoes? Sure. As Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”

4. Get organized the night before. It’s so hard to take the trouble to wrangle all the stuff together the night before, but it really pays off. Those last-minute dashes for homework sheets or empty paper-towel rolls are hard to bear with equanimity.

5. Have a precise routine. This sounds counter-intuitive, and I’m not sure it would work for everyone, but in our house, we have a NASA-like countdown to get to school. At 6:45 a.m., the Big Girl can go downstairs to breakfast (we let her watch TV during breakfast! Aack, I know that’s bad, but we do). At 7:15, she leaves the table to get dressed. At 7:45, we leave the house to walk to school. Knowing these exact times keeps the Big Girl moving and stops her from repeating, “Just a minute, just a minute.”

6. Caffeine. If you need your caffeine, make sure you can get your caffeine! I usually manage to drink a huge mug of black tea and a Diet Coke before we leave the house.

A friend of mine works full-time and has two young sons. She told me, “For a long time, our mornings were awful — lots of crabbiness and procrastination, me yelling at everyone to hurry up. Then it hit me: I don’t get to spend that much time with my kids during the week, and a big part of that time is during the morning. I made changes so that it became good family time.”

For her, the secret was to get up earlier. She hated to lose thirty minutes of sleep, but that extra half hour made the difference between a relaxed, cheerful morning and a rushed, difficult morning.

It’s worth the effort to try to get mornings running smoothly, because the morning sets the tone for the whole day – for everyone.

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Via the great site Pick the Brain, I found a fascinating list on Steve Olson’s blog, 10 things I wish I had never believed. I was most intrigued by: ‘Money is the root of all evil,” “School is the best place for kids to learn,” and “Admitting a mistake is a sign of weakness.”

My Secrets of Adulthood (see left column) is my version of this list — for example, I realized that I wish I had never believed “It’s a sign of weakness or incompetence to ask for help.” I’m going to try to tackle this question in the “things I wish I had never believed” form, too. Very interesting.

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