As I mentioned in a past blog, I will try to offer as many ideas as possible over the next few weeks about going back to school. I believe that the weeks leading up to school and the first few weeks back in school are the most important for setting the tone for the rest of the year. Getting on a morning schedule as well as a night schedule, starting a communication pattern, and streamlining routines are keys to a path that puts less stress on the entire family.
I have done some research on making this blog accessible and easy to follow as far as the page layout. Many sites recommend a list as a way to offer concise suggestions to the readers. This is great for me because I love lists! My life and thoughts usually end up in list format anyway. I have also linked this blog to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the coming weeks please feel free to give feedback related to anything on this blog, the layout, content, social media connections, whatever. I welcome your comments and hope to make this one of the best blogs out there. Now, on to the good stuff.
As I mentioned, a morning schedule will dramatically cut down on morning stress. Obvious indicators your child is less stressed: they fight less with you and their siblings, they are ready on time, and they have what they need for the entire day. If you already have a morning routine, take another look at it this week and see if some new ideas might make it even better. A good morning routine sets up the entire day for success.
Set a timer and have your kids race to see who can get ready fastest (correctly, of course). Offer prizes or the front seat of the car as incentives. Daily or weekly incentives are usually sufficient. If someone is ready first and there are a few minutes left, have a game box by the back door. Books, action figures, and trinkets are fast and easy toys to keep in the box. The kid stays in one place and gets to play with the toy until it is time to leave. Keep it simple. I would not recommend electronic games here because they can be difficult to put down.
Set a timer that goes off 10, 5, and 2 minutes before you have to be in the car. This helps younger and older kids know how much time they have left. If there is an issue you can say, “you have 5 minutes to figure this out.” or “you might want to make a decision in the next 2 minutes or you will have to go without.” This helps kids be responsible for their actions and stay on the timeline.
Have a drawer in the fridge and in the pantry where kids can grab their own breakfast. Bars, fruit, cereal in boxes or pre-made baggies, pre-made breakfast sandwiches, shakes, and instant oatmeal are all fast and easy for them to make themselves. This takes the guess-work away. It also allows them to eat in the car and spend more time getting ready or sleeping in.
Get ready the night before
Having as much as possible ready the night before will help to make the morning less hectic and more productive. Getting school bags including lunches, coats, outdoor gear, sports gear, outfits, homework, and planners ready the night before cuts down on the amount of things that can be forgotten in the morning.
Same routine every day
For most kids, consistency in routine is key to making the routine successful. Doing things in the same order every morning will help kids know what comes next. Lists in the bedrooms, bathrooms, by the back door and in the kitchen will remind them of the schedule. If your child cannot read, picture lists work just as well. Get your kids involved by having them make the lists themselves or finding pictures they like on the web. As time goes by the lists will become less needed. At this point you can act from memory or create new and better lists. Try moving the lists so that kids don’t just see them as part of the wall and overlook their benefit. Lists will also help you to encourage your child to refer to the lists and not seek you for every next step.
Look for ways to streamline
Take a week to look at your routine and find places where there are challenges. If your child always gets caught when tying their shoes or picking out breakfast, look for these areas and change those parts of the morning. If the routine you have now is frustrating or causing tears and fights, change it fast! Get the family involved and talk about ways to streamline with some ideas listed here. If everyone is on the same page and you provide mutual support, things will go more smoothly.
I believe that tough love is one of the best tactics a parent can use. In this situation, use tough love to make a child more responsible for themselves and their things. Going without lunch, a coat, or their homework one day is not going to kill your child. However, it will help them to remember the particular item the next day and many days after that. If you are a parent who feels like a broken record when it comes to asking your child to do something, this technique can work wonders. Tough love is an extremely effective way to teach your child the reality of consequences, although it takes practice and commitment from the parents.
Finding a routine takes time and patience. It changes with your family’s needs but is very helpful when taken seriously by everyone. Following the routine should be important. Have consequences for not carrying through with it. Get your family involved with finding a routine that works for everyone and keep the conversation productive. Bad mornings will happen but a good morning is just one day away!