The morning routine – getting everyone up and out the door in a calm, organized way – is one of the most important parts of your day as a parent. An effective morning routine takes care of the stress and the screaming, and sets everyone up for a good day at school and at work. Here’s the action plan:
The family spends 15 minutes every evening getting ready for the morning. Lay out clothes. Set out cereal bowls and boxes. Put non-perishables in lunch boxes. Sign everything that needs to be signed, collect homework, and put it all in backpacks. Put backpacks by the door. Check the calendar for the next day. Is there a field trip or a project due? Your child needs to get it together now!
Get up at least half an hour before the children. It’s important to be able to get your shower, dress, and have a cup of coffee before the kids need attention.
Children are responsible for getting up on time. Even elementary school children can use an alarm clock. There can be rewards and consequences for getting up on time if it’s a problem.
Make a written (or pictured) schedule for everyone. The schedule says when to get up, dress, eat, and go. If there is a traffic jam in the bathroom every morning, stagger the schedules.
In many families, the use of media (TV, computer, video games, texting) in the morning takes up way too much time. If this is a problem, make the morning a media-free zone.
Provide healthy breakfast foods that children can handle on their own, and require them to make and clean up their own breakfast.
Remember that you are training your children to be self-sufficient, so following the morning routine is their responsibility, not yours. When my kids were in late elementary/middle school, I was stressed every morning because they weren’t ready to go on time. Since it was possible, although not pleasant, for them to get to school on their own, I announced that the car left every morning at 7:30, and they were either in the car or not. Not surprisingly, they were all in the car and ready to go.
“Natural consequences” is an approach to discipline that allows children to experience the naturally occurring consequences of their actions. Natural consequences work well for morning routines. For example, if a child isn’t dressed when it’s time to leave, he goes to school in his pajamas. If a child hasn’t gotten his lunch packed, he has to eat the school lunch that day. You get the idea – and you usually only have to do it once if you follow through. Morning routines are not only a way for you to stay sane. Routines also teach your children that they are responsible for themselves and that their behavior has consequences for them.
Sending everyone off to work and school in a happy, calm, relaxed mood is a wonderful gift that you can give your family every day.