Thursday, April 23, 2015

Connect before you direct

 Who here has a hard time getting their children ready in the morning?

[I'm imagining every parent raising their hand, except that one annoyingly perfect parent whose children are ready 15 minutes early every day, whose children *never* fight, whose children never eat with their fingers, and whose children never joke incessantly about poop and pee and farts at the dinner table.*]

I have a certain 8-year-old girl (cough cough Zari cough) who has such a hard time getting ready in the morning. She's easily distracted despite multiple warnings and reminders and timers and escalating consequences. All too often I'm still pushing her out the door 1 minute before school starts. At school, she's a very good student, enjoys pleasing her teachers, and has no problem following directions. At's like I am the Invisible Woman and my words just pass right through her.

Here's advice from one Canadian mom I know. I'm really interested in trying it out.

Two things work really well for us.

1) "Connect before you direct": We are wired to only take instruction from those we feel either a) emotionally connected to or b) fearful of. Since your daughter probably doesn't fear you (this is a good thing), she needs to feel connected to you, and that feeling of connection is pretty short-lived. I find I have to "collect" my kids All.Day.Long but when I do, things are much smoother.

Instead of basically pulling teeth to try and get my oldest to put on clothes, we spend a little bit of time on his level, reading, singing, listening to him tell me a story, cuddling, etc. Only after he feels "filled up," I will give him instruction ("I really loved reading this book with you. I'd like to do that again. Right now we need to put on our socks and shoes and get out the door. Please get a pair of socks and your shoes.")

I seriously think this is a parenting secret weapon. It works. Like, seriously.

Instead of trying to convince her to get out of bed in the morning when she's lying there, try climbing in with her and talking for a few minutes about how she slept, what activities will happen throughout the day, if she had any dreams in her sleep, etc.

After you've filled her love tank, give her instructions on what to do next and go from there. It sounds like a lot of time and energy but I seriously find this takes soooooo much less time than trying to basically pull teeth to get my eldest to do things.

The concept for "connect before you direct" comes from Gordon Neufeld's book Hold On To Your Kids.

2) Routine Charts. I don't really like to add rewards or incentives to these because I don't think they work, but especially for visual kids, having something they can look and some sort of physical marker of being "finished" can be really helpful.

Don't you love that routine chart? Now I have to make one for each of the kids!

So please help me oh wise women (and men) of the internet.
We scrape by most mornings because we live 1 minute away from school. Next year, when we're back in the States, school starts earlier and each child goes to a different school (some several kilometers away) and I teach an 8 am MWF class. HOW are we going to get everyone out the door on time? 

* We have a rule: bathroom words have to stay in the bathroom. If the kids want to talk about pee or poop or make fart noises, they can do it all they want--as long as they're in the bathroom.


  1. I am NOT a morning person at all, so I do as much as possible the night before to make our mornings run smoother. We decide and lay out clothes the night before, decide and if possible prep our breakfasts the night before, make sure backpacks are packed, and if ending up in the car put there that night. Lunches pre-packed too if necessary. But truthfully I think most of the distracted behavior is age related and I think you will find as Zari gets closer to age 10 it will get better no matter what methods you employ. I was convinced that on their wedding days I would be asking "Did you brush your teeth?" "Did you go potty?" but now that the oldest are teens I rarely have to remind them of anything because the norm is to prepare it all the night before. Its so trying at this phase of life too when they want to be independent but still need guidance for most things. My mantra to this day is "Its only a phase, and phases aren't forever!" Good luck!

  2. (I emailed you directly at as blogspot wouldn't accept my comment here; my email is

  3. I love your reference to "fill their love tank" ! It's incredibly accurate and I just love it

    1. Yes, I love that phrase. Reminds me I need to do this more often.

  4. I would love to make one of these for my little ones. Can you tell me what you used?

    1. Tammy, this is a picture that I liked, but I didn't make it. Looks like heavy cardstock and adhesive-backed velcro.


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