Special Time Changes Our Mornings

alarm clockWhen my son started preschool, getting used to the new routine was hard for us all. We were all used to our pretty laid- back mornings where my son would sleep until he woke up on his own. When he did wake up, we would hang out in pajamas and play for a while and not worry about breakfast until he said he was hungry or get dressed until we were ready to go out.

Of course preschool changed all this! Now I was giving orders all morning. “Time to get up,” Eat your breakfast,” “We need to get dressed,” and worst of all, “We don’t have time to play, we have to go!” All this happened even though I’m actually pretty relaxed about having to be at school “on time.” As I said to a friend, there are no tardy bells in preschool!

My son didn’t like this scenario at all either. He became frustrated easily and I listened to many tantrums around trivial issues like the shoes he wanted to wear, or whether I put milk on his cereal (or not!). I understood that it was good to listen to his feelings, and was OK about doing that (most of the time). But I was still feeling like a drill sergeant, and I could tell that my son was left feeling like he never got to do what he wanted to do in the mornings. It was a lousy way to start the day for us all!

After reading a success story in which the parent did Special Time for 5 minutes every night, it occurred to me that we might try Special Time in the mornings. We already do Special Time with him several times each week, but usually in longer chunks. It hadn’t occurred to me that such a small amount of time would be useful, but it certainly seemed worth a try.

When we introduced Special Time into our mornings, I made a chart with pictures of all the things we have to do in the morning, including Special Time. As I was making the chart, I thought about where to put Special Time in our morning routine. The temptation was to put it after all the “business” had been taken care of, but I realized that in order to build a good current connection with my son, it would be best if Special Time was first thing we did.

The changes have been tremendous. Where before just getting out of bed was sometimes a struggle, now when he wakes up (even if he has to be gently woken) he hops up and says, “Let’s do Special Time!” Our struggles over getting dressed and ready to go are significantly diminished. Now when I need to get him moving, I can just ask him to look at the list and tell me what we need to do next. Now I don’t have to be the nag. I get to be the assistant who helps him get dressed, brush teeth, etc. when he tells me it’s time. We still have days when getting out the door is a struggle, but things are much smoother. Taking just 5 minutes to make sure that things go his way first thing in the morning starts us out on a note of connection and cooperation.

— a mother in Arlington, VA

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