PEACEFUL SCHOOL MORNINGS

PEACEFUL SCHOOL MORNINGS

God is creative. The enemy is not. He can only take what God has already created and twist and pervert it for his agenda, making it a counterfeit to the original design. But there is one thing he cannot counterfeit, and that is PEACE because peace is His presence, and he is not GOD! There is no such thing as ‘false peace.’ 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” I would argue that it is important to walk in His peace at all times, but I want to zoom in on the importance of creating peaceful school mornings. Chaos breeds hurt, pressure, fear, confusion, anxiety, low self-esteem, worry, insecurity, and doubt. It cripples their confidence and pushes them to act like orphans fending and striving. Chaos creates opportunities for them to take out their anger on others during the school day. Worse yet, it ushers them into emotional or mental isolation, which is the breeding ground for the enemy’s lies. Chaos sends our children to school feeling like they are a disappointment and disconnected from the ones who should love, value, honor, see and hear them the most. Chaos sets them up for hardships and conflicts with friends because they have unresolved heart splinters. Chaos can become a mental distraction causing an inability to focus well on school and learning. Their minds are focused on the lack of peace and connection from the morning, and it robs them of the freedom to engage in the moment. Some children spend all day fearing going home, knowing they disappointed Mom in the morning. This is the very opposite of our heart for them, yet we are gatekeepers for what we are allowing to transpire in our homes each morning. You are not a victim to your schedule or demands. Your child does not dictate and lead. You are a leader in your home. What you allow and tolerate is what you will reap. 

I want to offer some suggestions for keeping order, even joy, in your mornings as you prepare for the day and get everyone out of the door.

Wake Up – Get alarm clocks for each person, making it their responsibility to get up on their own. Nothing creates more stress and sets the tone for the day than Mom yelling at a child to wake up for the tenth time. If my kids do not heed their alarm, I turn on their light. If they continue to refuse to get up, they lose out on get-ready time, but either way, my car leaves at the same time to go to school, and they will be in it. It generally takes an ‘I am serious’ moment for them to learn the lesson that getting up on time is VERY important as no child wants to go to school in their PJs. This applies to teens too. Nothing motivates a teen girl more to wake up than realizing she will miss out on doing her hair and makeup if she doesn’t manage waking up.

Role Play – For younger children entering school for the first time, have a mock school day where you wake up and pretend it is a school day. Walk through with them what needs to be done step by step. 

Breakfast – Isn’t it interesting how we can be together all morning and never once even look at or see each other? Make a goal to sit together even just for five minutes. Talk about your upcoming day. This is a great time to cheer each other on for tests, tryouts, or heavier issues they are facing. I have a couple of great question games that we keep at the table to create conversation and laughter. Also, setting breakfast at a certain time each morning helps them manage what needs to be done by breakfast time (make bed, get dressed, etc.), as well as after (brush teeth, put shoes on, etc.). 

Routine – Having a consistent routine and agenda helps children to be successful. They know what they can expect and what is expected. It helps them to be self-guided in managing their time, too. One thing that really helped when they first started formal school was to have them do it in order. They had to get up, then make their bed, then get dressed, then eat breakfast, then brush their teeth, etc. Doing it in order helped them to know what they should be doing next. When they got older, our morning routine included the kids getting up at 6:30 AM, at the breakfast table at 7:00, and out the door at 7:30. They managed themselves in between, but those three times needed to be honored. Establishing the expectations ahead of time took the pressure off me having to keep them moving. Do not be shy in creating a poster with the schedule and if you see a child not doing what they are supposed to be doing, ask them to check the schedule. 

Lunches – Empower children to make lunches the night before, perhaps even on Sunday. Create an atmosphere of empowerment rather than pressure like it is a chore. Praise them for their effort and accomplishment. I told them they had to have one meat and one fruit/veggie, and one snack/treat, but they could pick what they wanted. 

Clothes – Empower children to pick out their clothes the night before, including socks and shoes, or perhaps spend an hour on Sunday afternoon having them set out their outfits for the whole week. My girls love it! This includes a routine for gym uniforms. Picking out clothes in the morning can be a recipe for chaos, especially for girls. 

Chores – Years ago, the kids wanted me to take them to the park, but I was too exhausted from the never-ending cycle of making meals, washing dishes, picking up, folding clothes, fetching juice, etc. I decided that day that since my children were a part of the household, they needed to contribute to the success. My top areas were the floors, dishes, trash, and laundry (which is perfect because I have four kids!). When they were younger, I printed out the weekly schedule and assigned chores and posted it on the wall in a frame. This empowered them to take responsibility, manage something, and feel good about their contributions. We have continued these chores to this day, but I have moved them to the evening so they can focus on other things in the morning. The only chore they have in the morning is managing themselves for school and putting their dishes away. 

Bathroom – Is bathroom time a hassle in your home? Switch from AM showers to PM showers. Create a hair/makeup area in their bedroom, leaving the bathroom available for the basics. 

School Papers – It caused me a lot of stress when the kids would shove a piece of paper in my face while driving, expecting me to sign it before we arrived. I created a system where anything that required my time, signature, or money needed to be placed on top of my coffee maker. I wake up early and review the pile while making my coffee. I respond and place the notes on the counter, making it their responsibility to get it in their backpacks. If they came to me in a panic about something, I would remind them of the system. Sometimes they had to get a ZERO on their reading log in order to learn that their lack of planning does not create a crisis on my end. I was holding onto my peace and teaching them to be more prepared. 

Attitudes – If attitudes are something you deal with in the morning, it means their teacher is dealing with it, too. Do not ignore this character weakness, parent it. Pinpoint the real issue, such as a lack of humility, rebellion, or lack of self-control, and go after it in times of peace. Sit with them and let them know responding to authority that way is not acceptable, and then role-play some ways they could handle it differently. Go after that character trait in other ways. Teach, train, and empower them. 

Family Meetings – I call “Family Meeting!” often in our home. The kids know they need to come immediately into the living room (yes, we had to practice what it means to come immediately and not 15 minutes later). I used this time to inform them of events, talk about issues, work through hurts/offenses, and allow their voice to be heard. We meet weekly, oftentimes more than that. During the school year, I made sure every Sunday we had a check-in and talked about the week, field trips, errands that must be run, things that needed to be added to the grocery list, playdates, permission slips, sports obligations, rides, science projects, etc. This helped us all to feel ahead of the game and not always reacting at the last minute.

What are some steps you can take to make sure you are sending your child out into the world armed with peace?

24/7 FREE TIME

24/7 free time is not a healthy recipe. Children will create their own fun, which generally becomes no fun at all. Children thrive best with structure mixed with lots of rest and play. 

WHAT HAVE I DONE?

When a child misbehaves, you first have to ask yourself this question. “What have I done as the parent to teach them?” If you have never talked to them about lying, stealing, hitting, disobeying, etc., and discipline them for their choice, it is nothing more than punishment. When you see a behavior you do not desire, you can correct it, but that is your clue you need to be proactive and teach them on their level right and wrong. Take a recent issue that came up. Ask yourself, “What have I done to proactively teach them in the time of peace how to respond? How have I taught them how to succeed in that situation?” There is a difference between the child who is being foolish and has never been taught how to respond appropriately and the child who has been taught and willfully chooses to disobey. Sometimes a child’s behavior is a reflection of where we need to do our part to teach, empower and equip them.

GREATEST INVESTMENT

Parenting is an investment, and whatever you put into it, you will get out of it. You will reap what you have sown. What you go after and invest in when they are one, you will reap when they are two. What you go after and invest in when they are two, you will reap when they are three. What you go after and invest in when they are three, you will reap when they are four. Going after their heart and character and honoring God TODAY will reap fruit tomorrow.

REAPING AND SOWING

I am getting better and better at letting my kids feel the aftermath of their choices instead of taking it on myself. The other day, I asked one of the kids to take out the trash, and as we pulled out of the driveway to go to school, I noticed two fully loaded trash bags sitting against the fence. I immediately pulled back into the driveway and put the trash in the bin myself in a bit of a huff. In the process, I stepped in the mud with my new shoes on, and it was not a fun ride to school. I sensed Holy Spirit saying to me, “Why did you do that?” and I began to think of what would happen if I hadn’t put the trash in the bin myself. Oh my – it would have been a disaster. Surely the neighbor dogs would have found the chicken bones, and there would have been trash all over the yard. And gee, the neighbors would probably think less of me if my yard was littered with trash. Then I heard it again, “Why did YOU do that?” and I began to picture my son coming home from school to find trash – the trash HE left out – all over the place and how uncomfortable HE would have been in cleaning it all up. While it would have cost me embarrassment with my neighbors, it would have been a price to pay for my child to learn ownership of completing tasks fully. God has set before us a Kingdom principle of reaping and sowing. Our children need to learn how to reap what they are sowing and not always have a parent who steps in to reap what they have sown. 

GRACE AS A PARENTING TOOL

When my kiddos were younger, I was learning about God’s grace. That sweet, love-filled gift of grace. I was so moved by His grace towards me that I decided I would give my children grace when they acted out… and all hell broke loose. I was perplexed that my kindness and goodness were being met with utter chaos. God showed me that grace without authority is nothing but entitlement. My children did not know how to handle the grace given because they had not yet fully been established under my authority. Let me say it this way – if you give grace to your children as a parenting tool BEFORE you have established your authority, you are not giving grace but empowering their flesh. Grace can only be received in the backdrop of understanding what they are given grace for. This is why character training is so important. It establishes for the child right living and positions them under your authority and covering. Do not mistake ignoring, avoidance, or checking out as giving them grace. That is laying down your God-given role to teach your children about His Kingdom structure. Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you absolutely don’t deserve.

TRAINING A CHILD TO HEAR YOU

It is important to teach a child’s brain to learn how to engage, not just to listen. If he is watching TV and you shout out from the other room to do something, chances are his ears heard you, but his mind didn’t. Especially when they are younger, this requires intentional effort on your part, but you will reap the fruit for years to come. Stop what YOU are doing, go to them, get down on their level, hold out your hands, and tell him to put his hands in yours. You aren’t controlling him, forcing, or using anger to make him obey. If it takes 5 minutes for him to put his hands in your hands, that is okay. He is learning. Once his hands are in your hands (and you don’t hold on to control – he has free will), tell him to look at your eyes and then state what you need/want. When you start this, it can feel like you are spending so much time just getting his attention to say one sentence, but really you are sowing into teaching him about self-control, respect, honor, and engagement. If at any time he pulls his hands away or stops looking at you, cease talking and be silent until he returns his eyes to you, then instruct he puts his hands back, and the moment he does begin speaking again. It is okay if this takes time and practice. The other thing is that when kids are required to respond with a “Yes, Mom/Dad,” they are much more engaged in completing the instruction than when they do not respond. I worked really hard on this when they were younger, but it soon became the norm.

BROCCOLI BAR

My daughter was having a tough time with her brother thinking it was funny to put his toe right up against the doorway to her room. He never went in but was taunting her, and she was biting the bait. She came to me exasperated. Holy Spirit had me teach her that he was getting a thrill out of her reaction. He doesn’t care about going into her room; he loves the rise it is causing her. It is making him feel powerful (of course, none of this was appropriate on his end), but this is an annoying thing about people kids must learn to overcome. I told her that every time she freaks out, it was like she was giving him chocolate. Of course, he would want more. But when we take the ‘fun’ out of our reaction, it is like handing him a candy bar made of broccoli. Ah, no thanks! I encouraged her to go up and ignore him, blow it off, and soon enough, it won’t be fun for him anymore. She invited him in, and then he ran away. He never wanted to enter; he wanted to bug her! When my kids find themselves in that situation again, I simply say, “Give them a broccoli bar.”

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

SUCCESSFUL IN THE CLASSROOM

What would our school look like if each child came to school not only with a full belly but their love tank overflowing? What would it look like if we were able to help our children process the hurts and offenses so that healthy connections remained among peers on the playground? What if their character was the key that opened doors to greater favor and opportunities? You have a responsibility to teach and train your children at home so that they can be as successful as possible in the classroom.

PART OF THE FAMILY

When the kids were little, they always wanted to go to the park after nap time, but I was exhausted from cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. I felt like my day was a perpetual cycle of complete and repeat. The thought ran through my mind that if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have to do all of this work. I hated that thought because I loved being a mom and my children. I rebuked that thought and remember the Lord leading me to EMPOWER my children to be a part of the family, not just takers. I sat them down and told them that I wanted to take them to the park too, but that part of living in a family is running a family that includes picking up after ourselves, cleaning, and managing our home. We came up with four areas that needed attention every day – floors, dishes, laundry, and garbage. From that day on, I haven’t touched a single one in nearly ten years. Each week we rotate chores and run the family together. When they were tiny, they didn’t do it perfectly, nor did I expect them to. But I used it as a time to go after character, self-control, honor, and faithfulness. When one fails to take out the garbage, it affects the family. When we rush and put clothes where they don’t belong, it affects the family. When dishes don’t get done, it affects the family. When they had attitudes, I went after their heart. I wasn’t training them in the area of perfection but in having the CHARACTER behind a chore or task. This is one of the best choices I made as a mom years ago, and I am reaping the fruit of four children who own the wealth, health, and success of our family unit. They were taught from an early age how to care for their family, and it started with chores. What have you empowered your children to do to help run the family?

PUTTING THE DISCOMFORT BACK ON THEM

Once past the elementary years, a great parenting tool has been to simply partner with Holy Spirit to see how the discomfort can be placed on the child, not me. A child will step up to the plate when they feel the pressure and discomfort of their choices. When my kids transitioned from homeschool to formal school, I showered them with grace as they were learning so many new things involving lockers, tests, new classroom rules, eating lunch in a certain time frame, and so on. Months into it, I still found myself asking in the morning, “Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Did you…?” My mind was going to explode as I tried not only to get myself ready and out the door but to remember who did and didn’t do what! I sat on the kitchen counter lamenting to Holy Spirit that I felt like I was going to lose it. The kids came down only to confirm they had not done what was expected, and back up they went. I stayed on the counter, trying to keep my cool. This continued for nearly 20 minutes. We finally got in the car, when I calmly said, “Thanks for choosing to get all of your stuff done this morning. Great job. I just want you to know that the bell rang 20 minutes ago.” They begged me with tears not to make them go to school late, but I had to be tough to let them feel the discomfort of their choices. Upon entering the school office, I was asked the purpose of the tardy. I simply said, “My kids were learning to take responsibility this morning.” The office clerk winked at me and told the kids it would be unexcused and handed them their slips to enter their classrooms… late. Guess how many times they failed to do their morning routine after that?

**Toddlers need the training established so that you can use tools like this down the road. I would not attempt to do this with a toddler who is still learning right/wrong.