I am not a morning person. Neither is my six-year-old. Nearly every morning while I’m getting him ready for kindergarten, he throws a thrashing, yelling, and whining tantrum over waking up and going to school. He tells me he hates it, and I’m thinking the same. However, while I’m not a mathematician, I know that if I react to his tantrum negatively, two negatives will not make a positive. So I breathe and sometimes I’m able to wrangle the alligator and get him dressed, other times we need to add five extra minutes to the task and pause.
I wait for him to calm down, and I gently ask him if he thinks the attitude he’s displaying is making it any easier for him to wake up and get ready for school. When he’s not feeling snarky, he usually looks at me with eyes of wonder and says something to the tune of it feels good to get those bad feelings out but he says no, it doesn’t make it easier. OK, how can I argue with that? He’s expressing his emotions and though it may not be appropriate, he’s understanding and explaining why. This is good, I tell myself.
I explain to him that it’s OK to feel those things and sometimes I feel those things too, so he’s not alone. I express that once you get those icky feelings out, you want to feel better, right? He usually nods or gives me a hug and says he’s sorry. I tell him that is when it’s time to change your attitude, because having a bad attitude in an uncomfortable or bad situation doesn’t make the situation any better. It actually makes it worse. So if all we can do is change our attitude, then maybe that will help us to feel better about the situation. Our solution to this specific morning routine is to make a plan for something fun to do after school, or sometimes we look forward to a special treat at breakfast. Many of you may unknowingly be doing this yourself already – hence that morning cup of coffee and why it is so special to us.
Whenever I have this talk with him, it is also a valid reminder to myself, especially when I have to go into work on a day I feel like ditching and going to brunch with friends. I don’t always hear my own advice, but parenting has an exceptional way of checking your character and your choices and making sure that you model the way you want your child to grow. We aren’t all perfect and we never will be. All we can give is our best.
When we change our attitudes or help our kids change theirs, it may not change the circumstance, but it does give us hope and strength to make it through the situation, even if it’s just one day at a time.