Lowering your expectations

Let me describe a scenario to you and see if it sounds vaguely familiar:

You wake up and have to get your kids ready for school – you roughly have an hour to do this. During this time one kid is probably going to hit the other kid. The clothes that were carefully chosen and laid out the night before, are just wrong and proclaimed ugly. The cereal is the wrong cereal and the milk is the wrong milk and anyway, the milk should have have been poured first and then the cereal not the other way round and, to top it all off, it is the wrong amount of milk. You ask your kids to put on their coats and shoes as you are running late now because of the whole milk/cereal/clothes saga and when you try and meet them in the hallway ready to rush out of the door, they are nowhere to be seen. One is standing by the window munching on her hair and the other one has decided to check if her new stickers actually do stick on walls. By this time you have lost your cool several times and someone is shouting (very likely you). This pretty much sums up a lot of my mornings — not very relaxing as you might have guessed. I have tried to devise various strategies and coping mechanisms, but the fact of the matter is, mornings in my house can be painful.

A few weekends ago, Courtney, her husband and I were talking about how important it is to stay calm and not let our children rattle us. Courtney’s husband made a great observation: We just need to lower our expectations… If we wake up in the morning and start our day knowing that everyone is going to be moody and disobedient, then every morning that goes well actually is a bonus… and every morning that doesn’t should not affect us too badly, as it is what we were expecting anyway.

I love this philosophy and have been trying to apply it in the heat of the morning. I have not always been successful in the application, but it does often work!

- Emilie

P.S. The photo above is of Violette giving her big sister hell one morning. I obviously had no expectations whatsoever that morning, as I was staying very calm taking photos.

17 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Anaïs | June 27, 2012 | Reply

there is a fantastic book i am currently reading that describes exactly a similar situation, and how to manage it. it is called raising happiness, a very quick read and easily accessible, and written by an American social scientist, with loads of serious references to back up her claims.

2. Emilie | June 27, 2012 | Reply

Ah ah! I felt that you described Monday mornings at my place when they are tired from the week end and grumpy, like me! It is amazing to see that some days are so simple easy and great and the day after can turn in a nightmare! I have 3 as well aged 6,4 &2. I have to say that it becomes easier now :-)

3. joanna | June 27, 2012 | Reply

yes i recognise this – my 3 year old sometimes goes through 3 outfits before she’s happy and there is zero point putting out her clothes the night before because she would never ever wear them. the 5 year old is easier, but she always was. the 3 year old has 37 dresses (i know, it’s ridiculous, but lots of hand me downs and just a few new ones) but it’s pointless – she will only wear navy blue t-shirts and trousers (on her ‘boy’ days) and one pink dress with pink tights in the exact same shade, if any of the required elements of her outfit is in the wash then we have to start again. she is so strong willed there is no way you could dress her in something she doesn’t want to wear!

4. angela | June 27, 2012 | Reply

… exactly the same happens in our house …. no solution found yet apart the fact that I’m trying to really take it easy and let things go their way. I don’t insist too much or at least not as before for having things done as I want … I allow them for instance not to brsh their teeth sometimes or not having breakfast if that means fight till tears and start the day too badly

5. Liliana | June 27, 2012 | Reply

Love the approach! Only men could have thought of it, as we women are too emotional! :o) I should adopt that approach when I go shopping and I except the salespeople to be pleasant and friendly, especially now with the “soldes”!

6. Emilie in Paris | June 27, 2012

Liliana, I hear you. Today is the first day of the soldes and it is a jungle out there!

7. Courtney in London | June 27, 2012 | Reply

I love this post! And I’m so happy to hear that your morning is so much like ours!
It’s really interesting because when Michael first told me his reasoning for lowering our expectations, I initially thought that we should NEVER lower our expectations of our own kids! Surely we should raise them so that they live up to them!
But I will say that I have, several times, reminded myself during our hectic mornings (or evenings!) that they’re only just kids, that my 7-year-old boy is a 7-YEAR-OLD-BOY and what he’s doing is normal for a little boy, and that yes, sometimes little girls really DO have to choose their cereal, the spoon they eat their cereal with, the chair they sit in, the juice they drink, the clothes they wear, the underpants they wear, the shoes they wear…. etc. etc. This is NORMAL!!! Somehow, reminding myself of this, and expecting it to happen, makes it easier to handle. Even on the most stressed-out mornings.

8. Katie | June 27, 2012 | Reply

Yeh, agree with the normal concept more, I think to lower my expectations would remove my end goal and the hope that there will be mornings that go well. I find if I expect it to be chaotic I am on edge about potential chaos which then increases the chances of said chaos. Though, maybe, now having three boys, I have been driven clinically insane through said chaos and as such my theories should be given no heed… :) here’s to organised chaos!
p.s. I find music helps, a bit of classic elvis, paolo nutini, everyone is in a better mood and it just seems a bit more chilled…

9. Emilie in Paris | June 27, 2012

Totally agree on the music. At the moment I am finding that a good dose of “Thriller” helps.

10. Nina | June 27, 2012 | Reply

Thank you for sharing this in your blog, sometimes you think the world outside of your own home is perfect, and it is just you that is imperfect, especially with blogs, everything is showing things from their best side, so sharing some imperfection is highly appreciated ! Thanks, Nina xx

11. Emilie | June 27, 2012

Rest assured, our homes are as imperfect as everyone else’s. It just would make for very dull reading if we wrote about that!

12. gabrielle | June 27, 2012 | Reply

my favourite post of the year – and this resembles my house morning and night (and noon if there is no school).

13. Sam | June 27, 2012 | Reply

Having just the one certainly eliminates the squabbles but we still have the strong will of a 4 year old to deal with!
We all sat down one night, the 3 of us, and I wrote down our expectations of a “good morning”. This included my son requesting that one of us goes downstairs and brings up a tray of drinks while he has a cuddle in bed. We have our drinks and we talk about the day ahead. Then after drinks he has to get washed and dressed before he gets to go downstairs and play.
When we follow the “good morning plan” as he calls it we have harmony and cooperation.
To enable this I get up and ready before he wakes and everything is prep’d and set out the night before (only takes 5 mins), he only gets a choice of 2 sets of clothes. I hang one outfit per hanger to make it easier for everyone (and so I don’t get stressed about mismatched outfits!). When we break with the plan we just take 30s to agree the new plan. And we shake on it!
We had too many mornings screaming at each other before I read an article about setting realistic expectations for our children. I shudder when I think back.

14. dana | June 28, 2012 | Reply

i find that singing helps too – they do this at my daughter’s school and everything seems to run a tad bit smoother over there. I usually find myself wanting to pull my hair out and shout “JUST STOP! EVERYONE! STOP TALKING!” by 9 am which isn’t the greatest sign of how the morning is going – so singing very loudly seems to mellow the mood a little.

15. Lulu | June 28, 2012 | Reply

I read this post as I was breastfeeding my 10 week old boy and smiled in recognition (I also have a nearly 4 year old and just turned 2 year old girl who conspire to create chaos). Emilie has described what happens in our house of a morning ( and sometimes of an evening) to a ‘T’. Reading the comments too; it’s heartening to know that it *does* happen to other parents – and all over the world. I REALLY like Sam’s idea of a ‘good morning plan’ and will talk about it with the girls tonight over dinner ( which may have to be spaghetti to put them in a good mood!) Thank you : )

16. Karla | July 4, 2012 | Reply

The problem with always having such low expectations is that I end up dreading getting out of bed and starting the day!

17. Mo | February 1, 2013 | Reply

I lol’d when I read this. Neither my brother nor I were at our best in the mornings growing up (were still not at our best in the morning, but he’s no longer aggressive and moody and I’m no longer as irritable and edgy as I was during my teens, we’re just non-communicative and slow on the uptake). To my benefit it actually led to me getting breakfast in bed when I visited dad once he and my stepmom figured out that the easiest way to keep calm in the morning was to keep us separated, and serving me breakfast in bed was the easiest solution (tea and toast is not as messy as cereal, pancakes or a fried breakfast).

I later used a variation of the same technique when I was a “morning nanny”, and had to get 3 children washed, dressed, fed and off to school 3 mornings a week. As the oldest and the youngest child seemed to be totally incompatible in the mornings (they were lovely together otherwise, just not in the morning) I simply had them eat and dress in shifts. The oldest got her alone time at the breakfast table when she was fully dressed and the younger ones were off getting washed and dressed. As a bonus, the messy toddler usually got to kindergarten in clean clothes since she dressed after breakfast. The technique was such a success that the parents adopted it too.

Interestingly enough, my dad later mentioned that they got a lot of flack for serving me breakfast in bed, but really, they were only doing what was needed to minimize stress on weekday mornings. And who needs stress in the morning?