My daughter Chelsey was nine-years-old and driving me nuts over the simplest things. I wished my Parents Anonymous group members could see what I was dealing with every morning. That gave me an idea, I would tape record our school morning routine, then play it at the meeting and let the other members hear it— they won’t believe their ears!
The next morning before waking the girls, I turned the tape recorder on and set it on top of the refrigerator out of sight. Chelsey sleepily came into the kitchen and I asked, “What do you want for breakfast: oatmeal, scrambled eggs or cereal.” She was debating the choices as I reminded her she needed to hurry and asked her if she had her backpack ready to go.
While I made oatmeal, Chelsey went to her room to get her homework and debated which color notebook she wanted to take. I asked if she had her lunch money or if she wanted to take a sandwich today; the choices were peanut butter and jelly or bologna.
Chelsey ate her oatmeal while she read a Babysitter’s Club book and I asked, “Did you wear that on Monday? Why would you wear it again— you know it’s dirty?” She finished eating as she changed the shirt then brushed her teeth and left for school. Phew, I would only have a few minutes till getting Katie up for school.
I had forgotten about the tape recorder until the next day so I waited until I was alone to listen to it. I was glad that you could easily understand what we were saying but I sounded different on tape. It was my voice but the tone was sweet, too sweet— I actually whined, “What do you want for breakfast…?” Was that really me?! I couldn’t believe it! That was me— sounding like June Cleaver!
The voice on the tape also sounded condescending and impatient. Before Chelsey hardly had time to make one decision I was asking her another, unrelated question. I sounded like a drill sergeant giving orders without giving any reason. By the time the tape finished I actually felt sorry for my daughter. No wonder she was so difficult— she was confused by my questions and commands.
Listening for the second time I made a mental note of all the changes I wanted to make in my voice and behavior. I stopped that sickening, syrupy-sweet voice and vowed to talk to the kids as if they were adults. I was confusing Chelsey by asking too many questions and giving her too many choices. My daughter could do much on her own and I decided to get out of her way as much as possible. I had always heard, “don’t do for kids what they can do for themselves,” so I started letting both girls make their own breakfasts. If my daughter wanted to wear a favorite outfit twice in one week then I would let her, no big deal. To make the morning routine more efficient we could decide on what to wear, what to eat and pack the backpack the night before.
At my Parents Anonymous meeting the next week I told the other parents about the tape recording I made and no, I did not play it for them— they would just have to trust me on this one. I was completely honest about my own reaction to the tape because we are there to learn from each other. After we all had a good laugh I suggested the other parents could (or should) record difficult times throughout their day (baths, mealtime, car rides, etc.) and then listen to it later and troubleshoot for problems. Even changing our tone of voice or changing our approach can make a world of difference for any age child.
How is your morning routine? Try taping your tough morning routine or getting ready for bed, any time with the children that can be annoying or frustrating. Listen to yourself as others hear you. Will you be making any changes? Let us hear from you!
Note: All names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Talk with a Volunteer or Find a Group in New Jersey:
1-800-843-5437 or 1-800-THE-KIDS
Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686