Every morning I brace myself for a battle.
It is not a battle most people think of either. It’s not a battle against a long day. It’s not a battle against kids who don’t want to get up. It’s not a battle against starting school work. No, my battle is a unique one for me.
My son doesn’t want to eat breakfast.
Now, that’s not entirely true. He is hungry and willing
to get something to eat but it is Only one thing. It is Only the very thing that isn’t good for him and so is restricted to the weekend. He ONLY wants cereal.
He will fuss
He will complain
He will look in the pantry
He will look in the fridge and go back to the pantry
He will sigh over and over again, and try to bargain. I try to compromise but he refuses
This literally has taken three hours before and not only messes with our house rhythm but puts my boy and me at odds with each other. I finally tell him exactly what to eat so we can move on but then he is in a bad mood because mom made him eat something he “can’t stand.” This morning I picked oatmeal. Something he loves and asks for me to buy. So why the fight??
Plain and simple, at certain developmental stages our kiddos become very focused on learning what they can and cannot control. My boy is twelve now and he turns thirteen in June but he had a power struggle when he was six and again when he turned nine. He is trying to control things in his life and he is trying my patience.
So what do we do about this?
Try to give options. At younger ages and sometimes still when he is in a better mood, just giving my boy two or three options to choose from is enough to help him feel in control. This stops the power struggle quickly and I still have given him acceptable options to have or to do. One such instance with him was when he was fighting school at nine years old. He didn’t want to do school and would skip certain subjects. We were butting heads and he was falling behind in the school work. I finally told him that he had to start school by 8 am but he could choose which book to start with, his math or his science. He chose science and we started right away. After that, I told him he could choose math or he could choose English. He chose math and we moved on. We did that for most of the school day and after a few weeks of walking him through it, he started doing it on his own. Options give your child a chance to practice important developmental skills without throwing your whole day off.
Create a schedule together. The most important part of this is the “together” part. When children are included in the planning and implementation of a schedule, they feel more ownership and therefore are more motivated to follow through. When my boy was six I sat down and talked about all the things that needed to happen in the morning, which included making beds and brushing teeth and we created a fun looking dry-erase checklist that was posted on his door. At nine, this list was revisited but left off some of the chores that had become a habit and he didn’t forget anymore. Also, he was the one who told me what needed to be done and I wrote them down for him, reminding him of things he might have overlooked. About a month ago now, my boy took it upon himself to create his own morning checklist and has it in a notebook next to his bed. He said he was tired of me sending him back upstairs to do something he forgot. As he thinks of things he doesn’t have on the list, he adds them in. This schedule is more for his chores and school work, I am working on him accepting a breakfast schedule.
Take the time to listen. This may seem like a simple thing and you may think you already listen to your kiddo pretty well but this is something I have to make myself do repeatedly. To me, we have had this discussion, he knows all my responses, I know all his, so why are we doing this again. The thing is, they want to talk it out again because they are practicing verbalizing how they feel and they need to feel valued. It is not so much the control aspect here as it is the feelings that feed the need to control. Now, my boy is a master of arguments and debates. He can turn a small discussion into a two-hour debate and suddenly we do not have time for him to do what it was I wanted him to do in the first place. To avoid that from happening I try to stand so I see a clock over his shoulder. I can read it from my peripheral vision, still looking at him but I do not let the talk go for more than fifteen minutes. Another thing I do is I make him think it out more himself. Instead of me telling him again why he cannot have cereal every morning, I ask him to tell me and then to explain the reasons behind it. The main point of the conversation though is to allow him to express himself respectfully and that is what I try to focus on.
This morning’s battle has come and gone. He had oatmeal, grumbled about it for about 30 minutes, and then turned on music while he started his independent school work. Not all mornings move on as smoothly as this one did, but there are more and more mornings where it does. He is practicing and I am praying. Together we will get through this and he will have more life skills in his toolbox for when he needs them. I just hope I survive these battles with a least some of my sanity.
No matter the battle, remember to keep breathing, be patient, and walk with them on this tough journey called life.
Greetings! My name is Joy and I am currently a stay at home mom who is homeschooling her three kids in South Carolina. I love learning and I love sharing the love of learning with others so getting to home school my kids and watch the “ah-ha” moments when they understand something is unbelievably rewarding. I have been homeschooling since my twins were preschool age so we are going on 8 years now. I am also a military spouse so we have the added joy of being a military family with some of the complications that come with it. As a family, we stay busy with our scouting groups, American Heritage Girls and TrailLife, and we do many camping and hiking trips with them. When I have downtime, I am typically reading books I have sitting around the house, on YouTube/websites getting more information on different home school programs or working on plans for homeschool. I look forward to being able to share our experiences with everyone and help encourage all homeschooling families.