What is the number one thing that people could do at night to reduce morning stress?
When my daughters were younger I often told them to pick out their clothes before they went to bed. And they would respond with a halfhearted “Okay, Mom.” And the next morning there would be a fury of trips to the laundry room to see if they could find a piece of clothing or visits between sisters to ask to use an item of theirs to wear.
This happened every single day.
“Gather your books and anything you’ll need for tomorrow,” I would tell them.
Letting go of those responsibilities was hard for me, but I knew it was important for my daughters to learn the lessons of forgetting and of not being fully prepared for the day. I would get calls from my daughters at school saying “Mom, can you bring me the report from on top of my desk?” “Hey Ma, can you bring me money for the trip – it has to be in today?”
The other parents in my Parents Anonymous Group said, “Well, maybe it is who they are – they are not planners.”
This was very stressful for me, not because I did not plan, but because no matter what I said, my daughters did not plan or prepare. I felt they were being disrespectful of my time and expected me to drop everything I had on my schedule – which I often did. My daughters had no consequences or felt any discomfort by forgetting or being unprepared. I was the one taking the consequences for their behavior.
In a light bulb moment, an idea came to me that I thought might help… charging them a fee to bring things to them at school. They could pay me from their allowance. I would think of it as a paid break from my work and my daughters would feel the needed sting in their pocket as a result of not planning the night before.
Charging a fee worked better than expected since I earned more than expected. Both daughters did accept consequences; quietly paying my fee as well as dealing with consequences from teachers deducting points when they chose not to call me to bring science projects and homework to school.
“Mom, I know it costs me $10 for you to drive my report to school but this time I really need it; could you please come?”
Charging the fee did help somewhat – the trips to school lessened and my stress was reduced. My Parents Anonymous Group members often reminded me, “Your children are who they are; you can only change so much.”
As for myself, I have a reputation for being organized; I organize everything: the kitchen, my office, closets, my car, information in my computer, etc. This is who I am… so where did my girls get this behavior? Ahem, their father often returns home to get his company ID card, his glasses, his watch, his cell phone, a list, paperwork, etc.
What would be my answer if my husband called from his place of employment and wanted me to bring something to him?
“That will be $10,” I’d say, “or lunch at the restaurant of my choice.”
What can any parent do to teach children to plan ahead? Remind, remind, remind, and be the example. Responsibility may not be genetic but I believe as children grow, they will get it right when it is important enough to them.
My mantra: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her blog here contact page.