Written by Julie Freedman Smith
Mornings seem to be a tricky time for families. It feels like everyone should know the process, but each morning, something goes wrong, and many parents feel absolutely frazzled just getting the kids to school, never mind moving through the rest of the day. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are five tips to make mornings work more smoothly and leave you with a bit more energy for the rest of the day!
- Get clear on all the things that must happen each morning. Remove anything that doesn’t have to happen at that time. What could be done the night before: Choosing the kids clothes, packing lunches, signing permission forms? Working these things into the afternoon or evening routines creates extra time for the necessities. Why does this matter? This is all about communication. If you know exactly what needs to happen, you can clearly communicate it to your kids. They cannot read your mind and right now, they think that arguments, nagging and power-struggles are all part of what needs to happen in the morning.
- The order of events matters. Do your kids rush to the breakfast table but take forever to get dressed? Take note! If they are hungry and ready to eat in the mornings, let that motivate them to get dressed quickly so that they can eat. Whatever it is that they love to do, schedule the slower activities in advance so that they have a reason to get them done.
- Plan with the kids, not for the kids. Now that you know what needs to happen and an order that could work, involve your kids (even three-year-olds can work with you on this.) Get a pad of sticky notes and ask your child to tell you all the steps in the morning game-plan. Draw one on each sticky note. Then, have your child help you put the sticky notes in order on a bigger piece of paper. Give them most of the control, but make sure that the slow activities happen before the ‘want to’ activities so that there is motivation to keep moving. Now you’ve got a morning game-plan for each child. Add a timeline to this as well, working backwards from the time you have to get out the door. Write them in the way your digital clock shows the numbers so that your little one can match the numbers to the clock in their room or on the microwave. Why does this step matter? This part is about letting the kids feel that they are problem-solvers. They want to help, and they DO NOT want to be bossed around. When we involve them, they feel seen and heard. Now, they have a plan and can tell us what to do by following the written plan.
- Give attention for behavior you want to see. Often, our kids end up not doing what needs to be done so that they can pull us into the room to get us to help them. Instead of giving them attention for NOT doing it, go to them in advance and give them attention for doing it when it is supposed to happen. It might feel like that will take more time, but you are saving the ‘nagging time’ so it will work out and you can notice them getting things done, and have fun by helping them: “Do you want me to help with your socks before or after you get your own shirt on?” Why does this matter? We won’t have to do this forever, but we do need to break the old habit of getting rewarded with attention for not doing a task. When we go there in advance, we turn the old habit on its head.
- When things go wrong: Use words that show you believe it can go right. Kids believe that parents know everything. When we say, “We are never going to get out of here on time!” they believe us. When we say, “I know we can do this, let’s work together to race the clock!” they still have hope. Arguing to fix the problem (or win the power,) in the moment never works. Empathize, keep moving forward, and practice on the weekends with your kids telling you the order of getting things done.
Undoing a habit may take some time for both parents and kids. If you need any help, I’m always here.
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