The easiest way to make sure that your children are ready to learn, every day, is to establish strong routines at home. A morning routine, evening routine, and homework routine are powerful ways to support your children’s education at school.
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:
- Spend 15 minutes every evening getting ready for the next 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? Get ready now!
- Get up at least half an hour before the kids. We all do better if we have a chance to get showered and dressed 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. Set up 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. Work backwards to figure out when everyone has to get up to be ready to get to school on time. If there is a traffic jam in the bathroom every morning, stagger the schedules.
- In many families, the use of media 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. Even a kindergartener can get a bowl of cereal and then put the bowl in the dishwasher!
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 a way for you to stay sane, but they 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.
Stay tuned next week for the Evening Routine!