Recently I have been helping moms who refer to themselves as schedule challenged. My goal is to lead them to schedule success. I have really enjoyed working one-on-one with these moms, and I have learned a great deal in the process.
Amazingly, most of what causes moms to have trouble with schedules isn’t a schedule problem at all. One issue that is quite common involves children who don’t do what they are supposed to do. When that is the case you can have a schedule full of activities, but the schedule won’t work because the children don’t do what is on the schedule.
For example, in one family the children were scheduled to get up, go to the bathroom, get dressed, and make their beds. The three older children each had a younger “buddy” to help through that process too. One day the mom e-mailed me to say that the children were having trouble getting to breakfast on time. She wondered if she should give them more time for the before-breakfast scheduled activities. I looked at her schedule and inquired, “Do the children actually have 1 1/2 hours to get up, go to the bathroom, get dressed, make their beds, and help their younger sibling do the same?” She confirmed that was the case.
I assured her that 45 minutes should be an amply adequate amount of time for those tasks and that 1 1/2 hours was way more time than was necessary. Truth be told, 30 minutes is a reasonable amount of time. The children, however, weren’t getting out of bed in the morning and moving through a set of activities that needed to be accomplished.
I think that is often the case with children. We expect them to do what they are supposed to do, and we are unhappy, disappointed, and frustrated when they don’t. We forget that they are children. We have to keep working with them so they can learn to do what they should do.
Usually, for change to occur, the problem has to become a focus so that solutions can be found. Moms tend to live in reactionary mode, putting out one fire after another. Ideally, however, the fires should be prevented from ever starting. That means taking protective measures.
It begins with seeking the One who has the answers to all of our dilemmas. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
It also includes not fretting about the situation, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). When you are worried and stressed, it doesn’t solve the problem. It just makes you less patient and more short-tempered.
Next you want a plan of action. In this case I helped the mom focus on the problem and look for possible solutions, but you could troubleshoot the issues you are having with your children yourself. I gave four points to start her on a plan of action, and this month, I’ll share two with you.
#1: Are your children getting enough sleep? They should be ready to get up in the morning with five to ten minutes at the most to lie in bed waking up. If they aren’t ready to get up, perhaps they need to go to bed earlier. At any rate, I would suggest arranging the evening schedule such that children can be put to bed early as a consequence if they aren’t getting up in the morning.
We began by eliminating a physical problem that would keep the children from being able to get up in the morning and get moving. This is something to be investigated for almost any problem you are having with a child. A tired child will have issues with attitudes, obedience, and even concentration.
We also found this mom had a very simple consequence easily available for children who don’t get up in the morning when the alarm goes off—put the child to bed early.
#2: Perhaps you and your husband need to skip walking for a week or two, have your Bible time early, and then work with the children in helping them learn to do what they need to do in a timely fashion.
The parents walked together for exercise early in the morning, since the older children were old enough to be left alone and be responsible for the younger children. At 6:00 the children’s alarms went off and breakfast was at 7:30. The parents returned from their walk at 6:30. If the parents stay home rather than walking for a week or two, there is accountability for the children and added motivation for them to get up in the morning.
Then came instruction of the children as to how to do what they needed to do. The parents had felt that this step was already accomplished. The reality was that, since the children weren’t arriving at breakfast on time, the parents had some remedial work to do with them.
If each parent interacts with a child, he can give his student instructions on how to efficiently make a bed. He can monitor the child to be sure the child is doing his tasks rather than playing with toys or with the younger sibling whom he is to be helping. He also has the ability to show the child how little time it takes to do the jobs when that is his goal and he sets aside distractions. The parent and child can practice together for several days before the parent moves into the role of observer and finally lets the child solo again.
I’ll share the last two points to this plan next month, and then move into another scenario. I would encourage you to “not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Many of you are so weary you feel like giving up.
When you are faced with negative situations with your children, don’t be discouraged. Pray for wisdom, allow the Lord to set your heart at rest, and develop a plan to tackle the problem. As you implement your plan with the Lord’s strength and grace, I think you will be very pleasantly surprised at the progress your children will begin making in troublesome areas of their lives.