As phase two of the school year begins, some may have a deep sense of dread about those morning routines. There can be constant prodding, pushing, and nagging to keep the kids moving. At times, this erodes into arguments and battles, whether over brushing teeth or putting on a coat, or some other simple daily task.
For some families, the morning routine is the worst part of the day. The constant conflict, the nagging and prodding, and the escalating emotions often result in an angry and frustrated goodbye between parents and children. Some of you even know what’s next, when kids miss the bus or mom is late for work; let’s just say it can get ugly!
But here’s the good news: these morning struggles can be (somewhat) easily avoided.
Three Keys to Easy Morning Routines
Be the Leader in Preparedness
If you aren’t up and ready, then you are trying to manage the kids, their routines, and your own life. Taking a shower, dressing, and yelling at the kids to get up at the same time is chaos and a losing system.
Do this instead; just get up a half-hour earlier, and be prepared and ready to go—before you even try to get the kids going. Yes, I know this is an absurdly simple suggestion, but it works! No confusing theory or complicated steps.
With that thirty extra minutes, you can be a model of what you want from your kids. Show them how comfortable the morning can be when you are up and well prepared. It makes you so much more resourceful and calm, as you get the ‘herd’ going. Perhaps more importantly, being up and readily gives you the time to focus on the next two habit-changing strategies.
Use The Tools Of Simple Leverage
In the mornings, I find that parents have two types of leverage that they rarely use. The first is breakfast, and the second is some form of ‘goodie time,’ such as playing with Legos, a few minutes on the IPad, sometimes on the computer, phone or TV. Yes, these must be controlled carefully, but if the kids are not so motivated to move quickly, learning to use these tools as leverage (even if only for ten minutes) is a potent way to get things moving.
The how-to of morning leverage: Set up a rule where your kids must be up, dressed, book bag packed shoes on, and ready to go before breakfast or entertainment. This means the TV isn’t on, the toy room is closed, and no electronics are allowed in any form BEFORE those morning routines are complete. Use your phone to set a beginning time for breakfast and a time when your breakfast is done (and you start clearing the table). Do this every day, and be at the table, breakfast ready, and eating yourself. Keep your energy moving forward, modeling movement and calm. If they don’t make it to the table by the time the alarm goes off, toss the breakfast. (Yes…toss it!)
Remember; no breakfast until your son or daughter is ready to go to school. If they must go to school hungry a couple of times, because they get up late and miss breakfast, just let that occur. Trust me, this natural consequence is important to them, and they will remember that tomorrow. For some kids, missing breakfast is no big deal. Just relax and stick to the plan. Don’t let their attitude throw you off!
And then, when they do complete breakfast, dressed and ready, they only need to brush their teeth and have their bags by their side…and now they can play a bit. All the fundamentals are now complete. This is where you offer them some screen time, playtime, or even a video game before the bus arrives. Set up the system so that once your kids get everything done, they will regularly have 15-20” to play a bit before leaving for school
Establish this system with automated alarms for breakfast times, so you don’t have to use your words. Set up another alarm to shut down the playtime, with five minutes to spare before getting on the bus. These automated signals/alarms will save you much grief. Just try it!
Only Invest Your Energy in forwarding Movement
Under no circumstances do you nag, push, plead, or pull to get them going. Stop all engagement of their lollygagging around. Ignore their moaning and complaining. Ignore their lying-in bed. If you keep putting energy into their resistance, their negativity, their sluggish behavior…this will be your life! In essence, you can’t keep investing your energy in the ‘non-movement of your children, and end up with ‘movement’ in the morning.
To state this differently, you cannot keep engaging your children (with your attention and energy) for the behaviors that you don’t want—and end up with the behaviors you do want. Yelling at them while they are in bed, or complaining repeatedly about how slow they are, or pulling them through each phase of the morning only serves to worsen the very habits that you want to change.
If you keep engaging them for being slow and distracted, then you will just see more of that in your home. It’s one of the laws of human behavior!
There is much to learn here, but these are the fundamentals to getting the day started on the right track. For those seeking more specifics on parenting, I am offering a parenting group in Clifton Park starting the 23rd of January. More information is available by calling my assistant at 383-0600. Best of luck and have a great new year!