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3 simple ways to make hectic morning routines easier—for yourself and the kids

If there was one common experience in parenting, it would be the morning dance of the frazzled parent and the child moving at a snail’s pace. It seems the more urgent a parent is with their request to hurry, the slower a child’s feet and hands are inclined to get dressed, eat, and even walk. Some kids even pull out the full stop and fall down, going “boneless.”


One day I looked at my daughter shuffling her feet to the car, and I couldn’t help but think that if there was a chocolate waiting in her seat, she would be running at light speed. Even getting her out of the car could elicit the same resistant response. With eyes closed, she told me one day, “I can’t get out of my seat, I’m sleeping.”

And if there was one thing that makes the morning a mess, it would be the resistance of a child to a parent’s fervent persistence to get them to hurry.

Is there an easier way to surviving the morning routine? The good news is: yes.

But it won’t be without an adult seizing the lead and figuring out where the impasse comes from and how to steer through it. In fact, some of our best parenting moments come from realizing when something isn’t working and needs to change.

Without question, if anyone can change the trajectory and tone of a morning, it is the parent. Sometimes it is us who needs to change, and sometimes we need to work on others to change. This is not usually done in the heat of the moment, but upon reflection in the guilt-ridden remainder of the day, following the frazzled morning.

Three points to consider:

1) Parents have agendas, and kids often have completely different ones.

While a parent needs to get to work or a child to school, that child may not want to go to school. Sometimes they are avoiding getting ready because they are having a hard time separating from a parent, or they might just want to play and not work, or they are fighting with a friend and want to avoid the turmoil altogether.

When you can make sense of what is underneath your child’s resistance and help them through it, things may naturally start to go a little smoother in the morning.

2) Parents can’t lead kids who dont follow them—and not just in the morning.

If it is generally difficult to get your child to attend to the rules, to do as requested, or to take their cues from adults, then the issue may not be a “morning” one after all, but a relationship one. A child who is not attached to a parent or has moved into a position of dominance over them—coined as an “alpha child” by Gordon Neufeld—is often too difficult to lead, and mornings can be a struggle.

Alpha kids are often bossy, commanding, or can feign helplessness in order to orchestrate their parent’s actions. They are allergic to being told what to do, leading to morning battles and the escalation of yelling and threats by their parents. Until the relationship problem has been addressed, a child will not readily follow their adult’s wishes in the morning.

3) Humans are hardwired with a natural instinct to resist when feeling coerced.

The harder someone pushes their agenda on us, the more likely the counterwill instinct will be activated, leading to a push back on their agenda. Young children, starting between age two and three years, can grow increasingly resistant to being hurried or moved along.

The more their “own mind” starts to develop, the more ideas they have about what they would like to do and when. A child’s agenda at this age often conflicts with the wishes of their parent’s but is indicative that healthy development is underway. The only thing that makes a child want to do as told, follow the rules, or make things work for their parent is by being actively attached to the adult who is giving them the orders.

Three strategies to quell morning mayhem:

1) Orient them

Talking to kids the night before and filling them in on what will happen the following day can help ease them into the morning routine. Kids typically love to be told the plan for the day, and it can help orient them and deter their resistance. A child’s reaction to the plan can alert a parent to the parts they find hard or are not in favor of.

2) Solicit good intentions

When you tell a child the plan for the next day, you can follow this up by soliciting their good intentions—this means, specifically asking them, “Can I count on you get dressed, come for breakfast, and do your part to make tomorrow morning work?” If there is resistance to the plan, it will likely appear at this time, giving a parent an opportunity to address it.

By soliciting a child’s good intentions, you are trying to enlist cooperation and get them on your side in making things work, while leaving some room to figure out where there might be challenges to this. When or if they start to resist the plan the following morning, the parent can remind them of their discussion and their commitment, while also acknowledging that we all have good intentions that are sometimes hard to realize.

3) Collect and engage the attachment instincts

When a child is attached to a parent, it should provoke instincts to follow, make them want to obey and please, measure up, and take their cues from them. Kids, especially young ones, will struggle to listen to those who have not collected their attachment instincts first.

Collecting a child means finding your way to their side, trying to engage their eyes, and feeling a sense of warmth or connection between you.

After a child has been asleep or playing, their attachment instincts may not be directed at the parent and engaged. If a parent tries to give the child orders, they will be met with resistance, because the counterwill instinct will be stronger than their attachment instinct.

Collecting a child means warming up the relationship in the morning by reading to them, cuddling, or taking time to engage with them in many fashions.

The good news is that when a morning has slid sideways, there are still plenty of opportunities to make it better—tomorrow is indeed a new day.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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