3 A’s Kids Need to Start the Day

I sneak into my sons’ room, careful not to wake my 9-year-old. I whisper in his older brother’s ear, “Good morning! It’s time to get up and run.” He looks peaceful. I’m tempted to back out of the dark room to let him roll over and snooze, but we promised each other that we’d run every morning to get him ready for track tryouts. So I give him a gentle shake, and he finally sits up and starts moving.

We only run a half mile, but in those five minutes, we talk about what dreams we had, and I share a story to distract him from his burning lungs. As we walk back up the driveway, sweaty, we high-five and celebrate that either his time has improved or the run is getting easier. We started this running regimen to set him up for success in track, but I realized it accomplished something more important. You don’t have to get up early and run to give your children 3 A’s every kid needs in the morning.

1. Attention

Obviously, you give your kids attention in the morning. If you didn’t, they’d still be in bed when the bus pulled up. I have to admit, a lot of the attention I give is in the form of a command, like “Get out of bed,” “Finish your breakfast,” and “Put on your shoes, now!” But one of the things kids need to start the day is loving attention that tells them you’re glad you’re their dad.

The need to give marching orders is here to stay, but what if we try to work in more forms of positive attention? Help your daughter put on her socks even if she’s big enough to do it on her own. Acknowledge when your child gets his lunchbox out without having to be reminded. One day last week, my son filled his and his brother’s water bottles without being asked. I looked him in the eye and said, “That was really helpful. Thank you!”

What positive attention can you give your kids tomorrow morning to show them their presence matters?

2. Affection

After a particularly tough run one morning, my son said, “I deserve another high five.” I agreed and went up for another. Then I put my arm around him, gave his shoulder a squeeze, and tapped my sweaty head to his.

Affection is how we show people we care about them. Are you doing something in the morning to show affection to your kids? It’s so hard when you’re zipping around trying to get out the door on time, but a quick pat on the back is more than just physical contact. It says I love you and I’m here.

What kind of affection will mean the most to your kids and send them off with a sense of security and lowered anxiety? That hug, wink, or fist bump is worth it.

3. Affirmation

Your kids care what their friends think, but don’t fall for the lie that your words aren’t just as important. You know them best, so affirm them in the morning with words you know to be true. Even if you only have 30 minutes between the alarm and the bus or car line, you’ve got time to affirm your kids.

While your daughter is brushing her teeth, tell her that “your smile lights up a room.” As you look at your son in the rearview mirror try, “You know, there’s something really special about you.” When your kids do something silly while they’re loading their backpacks, instead of “There’s no time for that,” say, “You guys have a way of making people feel good. Now let’s get moving.” You might get an eye roll or a “yeah right” in response, but you’ve planted a seed in your child’s heart with your words. Doing that day after day can lead to growth in character and confidence.

Can you think of two affirmations to say to your kids tomorrow? They might be the only positive words your kids hear all day, including their own voices.

Sound off: Which of the “A” things kids need in the morning is the hardest for you to pull off?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your favorite way to start the day?”