Win Your Mornings With a Collecting Ritual

Blog Home  |  November 20, 2018 by Heather Sandager  |  no comments  |  From the Office


The Morning Battle. We all know it well. No matter how hard we might try to prep and organize the night before, our best efforts can fly off the tracks in the 60 minutes or so that we are trying to get ourselves and our children up and out the door in the morning.

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A whirlwind of missing socks, dirty clothes that you thought were clean, wet laundry that you thought was dry, forgotten homework, dogs with upset tummies, fighting them out of bed, not knowing what to eat, realizing you’re out of milk, spilling cereal, blender mishaps, finding new clothes, pulling chicken out for supper, brushing teeth, braiding hair, lost shoes, and a mass exodus out the door with the prayer that you haven’t forgotten anything.

Whew! That makes me want to crawl right back into bed and call it a day!

These kinds of mornings – and we all have them – can bring a parent to tears. To make matters worse, it can be capped off by dropping the kids off at school with a frustrated good-bye, followed immediately by feelings of regret and incompetency. Why are mornings so hard?

While I have learned some tricks and tips during my tenure as a Mom-of-many, what I know for sure is that mornings work best when we all start calm and collected. Chore charts and rewards systems are all well and good, but if they are not rooted in relationship and ritual, their success will likely be short-lived.

In her book, “Rest, Play, Grow – Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like It)”, Dr. Deborah MacNamara tells the story of a mother who is exhausted with battling mornings where no one wins. This tired out mom described her mornings as a “fight”, fuelled by the pressure to get out the door on time. Can you relate to these feelings?

Dr. MacNamara’s advice? Start your day with a collecting ritual.

Dr. MacNamara’s own mentor and fellow attachment theorist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, explains the collecting ritual as this:

“Collecting a child is an attachment ritual used to activate relational instincts to depend on, look up to, trust, and follow.  In collecting a child we seek to get in their face in a friendly way and try and get a smile, a nod, and an overall sense of warmth and connection between us. In pursuing them in this manner we gather them to us and invite them into relationship. The warmth, delight and enjoyment we express conveys we are the one who will take care of them and provide for their relational needs. It is this collecting dance that builds the deep, caring relationships parents need that will help them hold onto their kids.”

Dr. MacNamara suggests creating a predictable ritual that you and your child can count on and look forward to every morning. Some examples might be to read a story, wake them up with a foot or back rub, snuggle on a favourite chair for a few moments, eat breakfast together and talk about what’s happening that day. As she says, “Just get in their face in a friendly way”.

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Your collecting ritual doesn’t have to be a long, elaborate ritual. In fact, simplicity is best in order for this practice to be a mainstay of your morning routine.

The results for the tired out mom in Dr. MacNamara’s story? Here are her words from “Rest, Play, Grow”:

“…I couldn’t believe it, it actually worked. We had such a wonderful morning…I have been fighting with them so long and this is what I needed to do. I have to admit, I doubted this would work, but now this it has I feel I have my kids back.”

Willowstone Academy is excited to welcome Dr. Deborah MacNamara to our school in February for a parent education night, which will also be open to the public. Details will come in the new year. In the meantime, every family at Willowstone Academy can pick up their FREE copy of “Rest, Play, Grow” from the school office. This incredible book is our gift to you because we want to support every family to thrive!

I’d love to hear if creating a collecting ritual helps you to win your mornings. Send me an email and let me know what is working for you.

Making Learning Visible,

Heather Sandager, Community Developer