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No More Morning Madness! 5 Tips for your morning routine

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find a rhythm in your day when it begins with stress? You’re racing the clock, fighting with your child over what’s for breakfast, what to wear or what NOT to wear, or why they seem to turn into a sloth when you say it’s time to put their shoes on... “Get in the car now or I’m carrying you!” Sound familiar? And by the way, I’ve been there too with my own child!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could begin each day with a peaceful morning routine? Does it seem impossible? I won’t lie to you and say there is such thing as a perfect morning with kids. That’s simply not true. However, the more intentional and proactive you are in setting a solid morning routine, the more likely you and your kids are to starting each day on the right foot. Read on to find my 5 strategies for ending the morning madness.

1. Create a task chart

I have created these for every family I have done coaching with and they are really quite simple. See the image below for a general idea. This chart has 4 quadrants: One column is for “To Do”, the other is for “Done”. The two rows are for “Morning” and “Night”. To create it you will need a magnetic board, letter stickers, washi tape, round wooden discs, adhesive magnets, Mod Podge glue, and the images that show your child what task they must complete (get a printable sample here!).

Be sure to consider your child’s age to create age appropriate tasks. In general children can begin using these around age 2 with no more than 3 simple tasks. At age 3 and 4 I typically recommend no more than 4 tasks. By age 5 children should have some tasks combined, such as “brush and floss teeth”. With the combined tasks I recommend sticking to 4-5 of them.

In our house, I say “Once you’ve gotten your tasks done, you may have breakfast.” (My son really LOVES breakfast!). He moves the tasks one at a time as he completes them. If he gets distracted, I simply redirect him by saying, “What’s left on your task chart?”

Using a chart like this can empower your child to do these things on their own and to be responsible for their own process of getting ready in the morning/evening.

For younger children, they will need more assistance, but eventually this system will keep you from having to give out repeated warnings, threats, and reminders. Ultimately it is there to save YOUR energy!

As a reminder, this takes consistency so be sure to give it some time to see the full benefits. That leads me to my next tip!

2. Give your child some autonomy

Many times when children engage in power struggles it’s because they really want to have a voice in the matter. It’s a child’s way of building their self-concept (basically, “Who am I and how much power do I have in this world?”). With this in mind, the more little choices you can provide, the more cooperative they are likely to be. Children crave autonomy and they need to be empowered to do some things independently. Their self-esteem depends on it!

The problem is that in our society, we are constantly racing the clock! We rarely take the time to slow down and enjoy the process. We run around like chickens with our heads cut off and wonder why our children do the same. Am I right? Though we can’t exactly change the way society is, we can make some proactive choices in the home that help empower our children to manage their time and to do more for themselves (again, saving YOUR energy). Here are some ideas:

- Include your child in packing their lunch the night before.

- Help your child pick out their clothes the night before and make them accessible

-Make socks and undies accessible, to your child as young as age 2 so they can pick their own out daily. (Bonus: They can also help put them away when doing laundry!)

-Place a step stool in the bathroom and make sure their toothbrush, comb/brush, and washcloth are within their reach.

- Place child friendly plates, cups, bowls and silverware, in a spot they can reach so they can set the table for breakfast. (For older children you can do this with breakfast food also so that they can make their own breakfast.)

- Create a “menu” as a visual guide for them to build their own breakfast. You can have them pick a protein, pick a fruit, pick a healthy fat, and pick a carb.

3. Do as much as you can in advance

Things you can do the week before:

  • Meal Prep for breakfasts and lunches. I like to make big batches pancakes and muffins in advance and put them in the freezer for breakfasts. As for lunches, I like to cut up fruit and veggies and portion them out on Sunday afternoon. I also make a big batch of hard boiled eggs in the pressure cooker (they peel SUPER easy).

Things you can do the night before:

  • Have backpacks and lunches ready to go the night before.

  • Have shoes located and placed in a convenient spot.

  • Lay out outfits

  • Write down anything you need to remember the next morning so you’re not spending your energy worrying about what you might forget

4. Use Enforceable Statements

This is a strategy I teach about in my Love and Logic courses. Enforceable Statements are basically a more assertive way of telling your child what you expect of them while also communicating what the consequence will be if they choose not to listen. Below are some examples:

“We are leaving in 5 minutes. Will you be going with your shoes on your feet or will you carry them?”

“I’ll be happy to help when your voice is calm like mine.”

“I do the extra things I do for you when you treat me with respect.”

“Once you’re dressed you may enjoy breakfast.”

“We are leaving in 20 minutes. Eat enough breakfast to hold you until lunch.”

5. Set a timer

If you feel like you’re constantly harping on your child about staying on task in the morning, a timer can become your very best friend! It can be as simple as using the timer on your smart phone, but if you think your child would do better with a visual guide, here are a couple timers I recommend to my clients:

Keep in mind a child under age 5yrs probably won’t understand that they have 40 minutes to complete 5 tasks, so you’ll want to break it up for them. For example: set the timer for 15 minutes to complete their task chart, then 20 minutes for breakfast, and finally 5 minutes to get jacket and shoes on.

Nothing quite sets the tone of the day like the way the morning begins. As a parent it can be difficult to calm your mind and be productive when the day begins with power struggles and chaos. The same is true for children. The way their day begins can impact how attentive and cooperative they are throughout the remainder of the day. I hope you’ll experiment with some of these tips and see just how powerful they can be.

As always, you can reach out with comments or questions. I’m here to help! If you are at your wits end dealing with morning tantrums, then be sure to check out my free Tantrum Tamer guide here!

Additionally, you can get my free Maximum Effort Activity guide here. These can help your child to build self-awareness and to feel more centered in their environment, both of which are foundational to cooperative behavior.

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