Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Scheduling Freak

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 in Featured, Motherboard |

Scheduling Freak

Some people call me the Sleep Nazi. Others call me the Schedule Freak. Call me what you want, I’ve got the magic trick to getting kids (well, at least mine), to adapt to school easily.

Maybe you’ve read all the how-to books. You’ve mastered The Happiest Baby in the Condo Complex or whatever. You’ve changed sleep habits and Tivo’d SuperNanny. Do what you want. I’ve got your ticket to kids being ripe for transition. How did I get so smart? Dora the Fricking Explorer. Seriously. And even today, five years after I have even laid my eyes on Dora,  my kids will go back to school with the same tricks I’ve used all these years. Watch me as I head back into my alter ego: The Schedule Freak.

Here is the Dora magic (and hellno, I am not a Dora representative, fan or even particularly fond of the show). Dora tells things in threes, Dora repeats the tasks, Dora has rewards at the end, Dora includes the children in the journey. Dora sets expectations. Dora is more of a scheduling freak then I am: “Big Tree. Wide River. Magic Forrest!” Not only does the character tell things in threes, she’s super clever in that she repeats what has been done, so there is accomplishment throughout the journey. “We’ve climbed the big tree — now we need to find the Wide River to get to the Magic Forrest!” This repetition is enough to drive a parent crazy. Until, you can use that chubby little four-year-old to your benefit.

I started with simple stuff when the kids were about 3-years-old:  “First we’re going to the post office to send mail! Then we’re going to the grocery store to find fresh fruit! Then we’ll come home and make dinner!” I realized an immediate difference. The kids were invested in the process and loved the idea of being included. There were no secrets, certain conclusions and full knowledge that they wouldn’t be sitting endlessly in their carseats. Their tasks had a purpose. Shazam!

As they grew a bit older,  I worked up to more complex rhythms: “First we’re going to get dressed, then we’re going to see grandma and then we’ll have lunch at the park.” The rhythms were more vague (get dressed means teeth brushing, clothes, hair, shoes) but the final task was always a reward (free time). The game still worked.

By school age, the kids craved the patterns: “We’re going to have breakfast, get dressed and go to school,” soon morphed into “We’re going to do our morning thing (breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, hair shoes, etc.), then we’re going to school (six hours of tasks), and then mommy will pick you up.” My children never spent one day afraid of school — they knew what came next. Call it kid empowerment, call it transparency. I call it Doraisms.

Today the Dora rhythm is still in-play at our home.  The key to Dora-esque scheduling of kids and grownups like them:

1. Use a wide angle lens. Let the kids know what is happening in the big picture. We have a dry erase calendar and as they eat breakfast and dinner, they look at the calendar to know what’s going on around them. They count down just like Dora does. “Five days until we sleep over at Aunty’s house.”

2. Give them a Daily Dose. I let my kids know the schedule as it unfolds each day. They can not only depend on their schedule, but also trust that their needs will be met. If it’s a school day it works like this:

7 a.m. Wake up, cuddle time (15 minutes), no TV or videos

7:30 a.m. To the kitchen for breakfast and morning chat about daily expectations

8 a.m. Brush teeth, get dressed, brush hair, find your way to the front door for shoes and backpacks.

8:30 a.m. Leave for school

2:50 p.m. Mommy, La Gringa, Grandma or Aunty/Uncle pick you up. No exceptions, no disappointment (Dora doesn’t say, “Oh, go with the Grumpy Old Troll because mommy has a conference call)

3:30 p.m. Home, wash hands, change clothes.

3:45 p.m. Snack, homework

4:30 p.m. Play

6 p.m. Shower, jammies, cuddles

6:30 p.m. Dinner

7 p.m. Read with @La_Gringa

7:30 p.m. Lights out

3. Give them some Wiggle Room. Adding in spontaneity is key to a highly scheduled kid. My kids live and breathe their schedule, but they know if I tell them, “Today we’re going to chill out,” they will get more creative. This third part is vital to the life of a scheduled child: NO SCHEDULE. The entire reason to schedule my kids is so that I can break the schedule. The ability for my kids to adapt is important to me. I am learning daily how to make sure there is enough wiggle room for the kids to drive their own Doraisms.

As the back-to-school frenzy begins, I find myself happier than much of the unscheduled summertime. The kids knew their patterns for today and followed them beautifully. They wiggled-in an hour of four square, I squeezed in a quick trip to the fish market. In watching my children’s growth, I have come to understand that the Dora scheduling philosophy might have set patterns for my family that are so much greater than I ever imaged. Setting the patterns clearly, the goals cleanly and the success certain are the keys to Dora’s trove of wisdom that I hold so dear.

This post is for the topic of Back to School from my dear friends at the Yahoo! MotherBoard.