“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
– Albert Camus, The Stranger
My career choice sets my life up as a duality – a working mother during the school year and a stay-at-home mom during the summer. I am grateful for both sides of me.
Yet blue skies abound as I spend all my summers with my girls. It’s our time to be unscheduled – exploring, hanging, being.
With an abundance of time together, boundaries are necessary to create an endless, peaceful summer. Boundaries, so I’m not pulling out my hair, rocking in the corner at the end of the day – or at least not every day, and the children continue to feel secure and structured.
This is where being a teacher is an ace. Skills I learn in the teaching field are applied directly at home in the summer. Recently I met with Hope from SMRT Parenting and she asked me about such tools.
Here’s a light on the teacher savoir-faire:
Set a Daily Schedule
Although school is out for summer, I still guide the flow of our day. I start each day with a schedule, albeit loose and flexible. Kids like predictability. They thrive on knowing what comes next. After all, they just spent the school year staring at a list on the whiteboard announcing their daily agenda: Gym, reading, math, lunch …
My girls are a little older now (4 and 7), so most days our schedule is marked on a post-it note. In the morning, I sit at the breakfast table with the girls and jot down what’s on the docket that day. Do we have plans with friends? Swimming lessons? A doctor’s appointment? Do we need to go to the grocery store? What do they want to add in? We fill our day with at least one special activity and plenty of time for unstructured play.
Yet the weekly must-dos exist. This is where the daily schedule helps … with pushback!
Kids and pushback? You don’t say.
Yesterday, we got home from a two-week trip to my parents’ house in Wisconsin. Our daily schedule wasn’t all fun in the sun as it had been. It went something like this: Tidy the house, buy materials for happy jar, go to the grocery store, put away groceries, eat lunch, sort and start laundry, create happy jar, go to the park, watch a TV show while mom makes dinner, night-time routine.
On these less “fun” days, when they are chomping at my heels, I can point to the schedule. In print, it reminds them: “Oh yeah, mommy is going to do the happy jar, but first she needs to put away the groceries” or whatever.
Stick to Your Routines
So much of teaching is built upon routines. And we all know that routines are best practice in parenting too. I am all for breaks – yes, our routines fall to the wayside at grandma’s house and yes, movie night happens more than once a week in the summer.
Yet, I don’t want them to develop unhealthy routines during our summer slide. So for the most part, I do try to keep our morning and evening routines in place.
Such as the getting-ready chart for Stella, my youngest.
My suggestion: Continue the school-year routines that you enjoy, the ones that work for you. For us, I also continue our bedtime reading and limit screen time. My girls know they get two shows a day. Most mornings, they get up and immediately watch 1 – 2 t.v.shows. This is a luxury for us as we NEVER have time during the school year to start the day über slow.
Have a Conversation to Set Expectations
Rather than assume your kiddos know what’s what, take a couple minutes to explain your expectations before the day begins or before going places. This is the time when listening ears are on and tensions are low. There are less hiccups as this practice limits the number of “no’s,” thus reducing the power struggles.
But the first step is knowing what you expect. Start by setting expectations and realistic boundaries yourself. How much screen time is too much? Do you want a set wake up time for your kids in the summer? How much time should they spend outdoors? What are your expectations for the zoo?
Then talk to your children. Having conversations with your kids gives them a voice to have their needs known and validated. Stealing from the Responsive Classroom, consider having a Morning Meeting. Explain your expectations in simple, meaningful, and understandable terms and listen to them. With the younger kiddos, it’s best to explain and rehearse first. When we are at the park, this is what is going to happen … work through it together.
Lastly, remember to give props when they meet your expectations. Praise your children when they have been a big helper or a good listener.
Children need guidelines and expectations. If they don’t have them, you’ll hear a chorus of “Mom, I’m bored!” all summer long. You’ll hear that anyway, but I like to think a little less.
What are the routines and structures you use at home? I would love to hear in the comments.
Ciao for now.
P.S. Check out SMRT Parenting. I’m honored to be featured on the “reality” tab of their website. Hope, one of the founders, is a fellow UW grad. Go Badgers!!