It’s funny how sometimes a simple solution really hits the spot and solves more problems than you hoped it would. I found one of those these last couple weeks, and I should savor it.
It might not last all year – in fact, I know it won’t – and there are still issues and conflicts and difficulties in our days – but one small change totally shifted our mornings into a different gear.
Unassuming tea. Plain white mugs. Simple and cheap.
You see, somehow my older two boys thought they could buck the pattern of the last 6 years and go play Legos after their chores were done instead of getting to their math or Bible reading. It’s true, I was frequently distracted by my email inbox or by an oatmeal-encrusted toddler or by an overflowing laundry hamper, but still.
I tried being more on top of the situation in the morning, but it came across as clamping down on their fun and being the morning kill-joy and slave-driver. It was decidedly not pretty.
And even so, our morning start was creeping later and later, which translated into less being done overall.
So, one Sunday evening I told the older two boys: “If you have your chores done by 8, then you can make yourself tea.”
Now I’m fun mom! Now I’m extending privileges! I’m happy, they’re happy. They can heat the water, get their tea, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and clean up their own mess. It adds zero additional work to my day and a lot of joy to theirs.
The younger children have been told this is a privilege for those 8-and-up. The younger ones don’t really care for a cup of hot tea, but every morning they think they do until I’ve made them one. A policy of age privilege, though, seems to be acceptable.
The funny thing is, the tea answer not only stopped them from holing up in their rooms in the morning, it also has made their mornings incredibly more productive – and it’s not the caffeine.
Once they have a cup of tea, they have to be at the table. And they feel quite accomplished to be sitting at the table with a mug and some work. So they tackle their math over their tea and we’ve had significantly fewer math meltdowns and passed lessons much faster.
And it’s all because of their mood going into it. They are self-starting: making their own tea, asking for their math, and feeling like they’re getting somewhere. Part of that mood uplift is definitely that I have removed prodding and ordering from the morning routine as well. I don’t give the signal to start anymore, they get to their tea and then their work as soon as they can get their work done – by 8am.
It’s a Christmas miracle.
Not that there aren’t ever tears or frustration anymore, of course. Let’s be real. But the entire atmosphere of our mornings, which were steadily declining, suddenly and drastically did a 180 with the introduction of this small ritual.
It’s not the tea. Yes, I let them choose English Breakfast if they want, but they often prefer herbal. It’s not caffeine.
It’s that they have a starting ritual, a signal to begin their work day, and it no longer requires my input at all.
This is the start of taking responsibility and stepping into real life – it’s provided a way for them to become self-starters and take that authority for themselves. They are ready for it and they have seized their opportunity and own it.
It’s made me look at the day and wonder what other small tweaks I can make to foster independence.
Any ideas to share?