Tag Archives: school

12 Tips for a Happier Home, Adapted from Nursery School.

One of my resolutions is to Treat myself like a toddler. I’ve found that much of the advice aimed at children is just as helpful for me.

For instance, I’m reading Nicole Malenfant’s Routines and Transitions: A Guide for Early Childhood Professionals (non sequitur:  a surprising name for a childhood expert). She lays out several strategies for teachers to use in establishing routines and transitions for children. I’m going to try to apply them to myself.

Here’s a tips list, loosely adapted:

  1. Turn routines into games. My evening tidy-up, while not quite a “game,” is kind of fun and quite relaxing.
  2. Control the level of noise. I’m much calmer when there’s no TV or music playing in the background.  (Except at night. Weirdly, my husband and I fall asleep to all-news radio.)
  3. Organize space so it’s attractive, well organized, and well lit. One of my most important Secrets of Adulthood: Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  4. Plan times each day for relaxing activities. Why is this so hard for adults?
  5. Encourage a feeling of belonging, e.g., by displaying children’s work and pictures. I have a resolution to Cultivate a shrine.
  6. Consider children’s reactions when making an unavoidable change. I do better with routines and predictability. I don’t react well when there’s a sudden change in the schedule.
  7. Balance indoor and outdoor activities. Just going outside into the sunlight gives a mood boost.
  8. Make sure there’s plenty of time to get things done without rushing. This makes a huge difference in my day-to-day happiness. In Happier at Home, I write a lot about my struggle to create an unhurried atmosphere at home.
  9. Provide opportunities for curiosity and creativity.
  10. Speak in a calm voice. This is a big issue in my home. We talk all the time about “a kind voice,” “a mean voice.”
  11. Explain the behavior you’d like to see in a clear, respectful way. Not “Settle down,” but “Sit in your chair with your feet under your desk.” Not “I could use a little help around here,” but “Please unload the dishwasher so we can get the dirty dishes out of the sink.”
  12. Meet people’s basic needs. Children and adults need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, rest, and spend time outside.

It’s such a cliche to say that “I learned everything I need to know in kindergarten,” but I find that sometimes the most basic ideas are quite effective.

What would you add to this list? What lessons from nursery school?

 

7 Tips for Keeping School-Day Mornings Calm and Cheerful.

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

Unbelievable, but school is already well underway. And that means that the early-morning scramble is underway too.

I wrote this list a while back, but I realized this morning that I needed to go over it again and remind myself of what I need to do keep things running smoothly. I want a calm, unrushed, cheerful morning — not one with lots of whining, yelling, and searching for misplaced items. (And that’s just me!)

I had a major insight about the challenge of keeping our school-day mornings moving along: 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 I try to follow to keep the mornings calm:

1. Get enough sleep myself. I’m good at putting my kids to sleep at a decent hour, and I need to be just as disciplined with myself. It can be tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet, but 6:00 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. I also try to observe the evening tidy-up, so I don’t feel like I should rush around tidying up the apartment.

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 7:00 a.m., we all go down to breakfast. At 7:20, time to get dressed. 7:40, time to leave for the walk to school. Knowing these exact times keeps my daughters moving and stops them 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 several huge mugs of coffee before we leave the house.

7. Jump! This is my new favorite resolution. Yes, just jump up and down a few times. It will make you feel more energetic, lighthearted, and silly — a great tone to start the day.

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.

The days are long, but the years are short.

* Are you a Savvy Auntie? Check out this great site for “cool aunts, great aunts, godmothers, and all women who love kids.”

* Speaking of “The days are long, but the years are short,” if you haven’t watched my little one-minute video, you might enjoy it.

Video: What Has Been YOUR Most Helpful Resolution?

2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year – and even if you haven’t officially signed up for the challenge — last month’s focus was Fun, and last week’s resolution was Start a collection. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?

This week, I’m doing something a little different.

For me, as for many people, it’s not January, but September — with its air of sharp pencils, fresh beginnings, and renewed resolve — that marks the real start of the new year. The academic schedule shaped my life from pre-school through law school, and this continues through my daughters’ routines, and so back-to-school is the season for reinvention and renewal. New classes, new friends, new teachers, new supplies — it’s the chance to start again.

That means that it’s a good time to make a new year’s resolution. If you’ve ever tried and kept a resolution, what has worked best for you? What made the biggest difference? Or didn’t have any effect at all?

On my book video, I list many of my favorite resolutions. I’d love to do a companion version of the video that lists other people’s favorite resolutions. So please comment below and share your best ones, and I hope to make a second resolutions video.

If you’re new, here’s information on the 2010 Happiness Challenge (or watch the intro video). It’s never too late to start! You’re not behind, jump in right now, sign up here. For more ideas, check out the Happiness Project site on Woman’s Day.

* I’m fascinated by My Open Wallet, where “an anonymous New Yorker tells the world how much she earns, spends, and saves.” I especially love “My Rules” which are in the right-hand column.

* Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. To get the weekly video by email, right in your email in-box, you can:
— On the GretchenRubin channel page, after you subscribe, click “Edit Subscription” and check the box, “Email me for new uploads.” Or…
— Go to your main drop-down box, click “Subscriptions,” find the GretchenRubin channel, click “Edit Subscriptions,” and check “Email me for new uploads” there.

10 Tips for Parents Who Want to Help Their Children Handle Social Struggles.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 10 tips for parents who want to help their children navigate social struggles.

A few days ago, in a post about teasing, I quoted from Michael Thompson’s excellent book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children.

In the book, Thompson includes a list of ten rules for parents who want to help their children manage their social lives. He discusses each point at greater length, of course, but I thought the list itself was very helpful.

1. Don’t worry so much. Remember that you gave your child a social start in life. [Elsewhere, he reminds parents that we can’t spare their children normal social pain; it’s part of growing up.]

2. Recognize the crucial difference between friendship and popularity. Friendship is more important. [Popularity is more about status than being well-liked.]

3. Support your children’s friendships.

4. Make your child’s friends welcome in your home.

5. Be a good friendship role model and teacher.

6. Provide a wide range of friendship and group opportunities.

7. Make friends with the parents of your child’s friends (and enemies).

8. Empathize with your child’s social pain, but keep it in perspective.

9. Know where your child stands in the group. If your child is in trouble socially, step in to help. If you child is popular or accepted, help him or her be a positive moral leader. Don’t act like a middle schooler yourself. [Elsewhere, Thompson points out that parents often make things worse when they intervene, so don’t rush in.]

10. Take the long view.

What do you think of this list? Agree, disagree? Anything you’d add?

* One of my more challenging resolutions is to Enjoy the fun of failure, and I loved this post by the excellent Gwen Bell, Mistake mulch: a short guide to making mistakes.

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 45,000 people get it)
Buy the book
— Put a link to the blog in your Facebook status update
— Watch the one-minute book video
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.