Most Australian parents are at the end of the first or second week of back-to-school 2018, and are asking themselves, with their heads in their hands, “Why did I think school mornings would be preferable to eight weeks of holidays?”
But never fear, the Stay At Home Mum, Jody Allen, has some sanity-saving tips for all of us.
Her number one suggestion is to impose, “a very, very strict routine”.
“The kids, even mum and dad, will respond really well when everyone knows what they have to do each morning,” she told the hosts of Mamamia’s parenting podcast This Glorious Mess.
Sounds good, but how young is too young to be able to expect kids to take some responsibility in preparing for the day? The Queensland mother-of-two says that the sooner a routine is imposed, the better.
LISTEN: This Glorious Mess speaks to Jody Allen about how to make school mornings more successful. (Post continues.)
“Mine are nine and 10 now, and they are naughty little boys, and it’s taken a few years to kick ’em up the bum!”
An integral part of the process of imposing a routine has been bribery.
“I firmly believe in bribery,” says Allen, “and it has worked for me.”
The SAHM explains how her mornings work:
“We get up at 6am, we spend the first hour tidying the house, they have to put on the dishwasher, that sort of thing.”
Wait, what? How does she manage to get the children to willingly engage in morning chores?
“We dangle the screens in front of them,” laughs Allen. Only if they have helped and are fully ready for school, do her “screen addicts” get their screen time.
Allen admits “she’s feeding their addiction” but makes no apologies, because the technique “works beautifully.”
Does Allen have a tip on how parents can avoid frustration if their child is too slow at performing a task, and resist doing jobs themselves?
“Have it written down. Both boys have a poster in their rooms and it says you must clean teeth, uniform, apply deodorant, pack your schoolbag. Keep it simple. It’s also on my fridge, somewhere they can see every day.”
Allen admits she used to lay out the boys’ uniforms when they were younger, but no longer needs to, because they know the process well enough themselves.
“I also let them fail. If they forget lunch, I let them realise that, so it gives them enough of a shock to remember for next time.”
In terms of lunches, Allen says she makes those herself on a Sunday night because “my kids can’t be trusted with big knives!”
Of course, she’s joking; the real reason is that she makes the week’s sandwiches every Sunday night, and freezes them. Then on weeknights, the boys know to grab their lunch boxes and put in poppers, fruit, cheese, as they wish.
And yes, Allen promises that a sandwich made on Sunday night tastes fine on Friday, if you use fresh bread and seal it well.
But there’s a part of this routine that may scare some parents – if it’s incentivised with devices, how do you get them off the devices to leave the house?
This is where Allen gets super firm: “They know they will be penalised in the afternoon after their homework and chores are done.” More screen time in the morning means less that afternoon – and that’s enough to scare the kids into obedience.
“You have to be firm with them, you have to do as you say, and stick to it,” Allen says.
“You can’t cave!”
You can listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here. You can also buy Jody Allen’s book from Apple.co/mamamia
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