Mornings are a great time to connect with kids! Starting the day without arguments can be a great way to send everyone on their way to get the most out of their day. For many families though, mornings can feel less like a time to connect and more like a time to beg/plead and nag kids out the door and off to school.
The bottom line is, if you are going to be connecting with your kids (talking, sharing a breakfast table, or driving to school,) it works better when the roles and responsibilities are clear.
We hear from so many parents about the daily morning arguments over:
- breakfast (what to eat, and then actually eating it)
- getting dressed
- turning off the screens
- getting stuff packed up
- getting out the door
It doesn’t have to be that way! There is room for change. A big part of smooth mornings is preparation and expectation.
Making it easier for parents
Being prepared means setting yourself up for success. You know yourself best: are you a ‘night-before’ planner or do you prefer the early-morning plan? Using non-child time to get organized means that you’ll have more time to be with your kids in the morning and to set them up for success.
Making it easier for kids
You likely know how you want the mornings to look. Now it is time to let them in on the secret without nagging. When our kids were little, one of us was clearly told, “stop telling me what to do all the time! Do you have to be so bossy?” That’s when we changed how we did mornings, and handed over some of the responsibility.
Make some time (on a weekend, or at your regular family meeting,) to clearly outline what’s expected in the mornings. Work with each child to get it on paper along with the times that each task is meant to begin. Once each child knows the plan, your job can become more about encouragement, than about telling kids what to do.
If you need to guide your kids, you can ask, “What’s next in the plan? Where do you need to be now? What does the clock say?”
Part of this morning routine can involve pre-bedtime organizing: planning with your child what clothes will be worn the next day, along with what’s for breakfast, and making sure that homework is back in the backpack and ready to go to school the next day. Do your children make their own lunch? If so, that can happen before bed as well. If you make the lunches, that’s one thing to cross of your own list before bedtime.
Getting up before the kids may be another useful tool to make your mornings easier. This leaves time for you to sit and eat with them. We find that many kids misbehave in order to get their parents’ attention in the mornings. When parents are there, attending to the behaviours we want to see, there is less of a need for misbehaviour and less of an opportunity for things to get out of hand.
Another big morning battle seems to be getting kids off of devices and back to what they need to be doing. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to leave screens off in the morning, or at the very least, off until your child is ready to go. When that distraction is managed, many other problems fade away.
As you focus in on your family’s mornings this week, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know the schedule you would like your child to follow in the mornings?
- Does your child know it? Write it down so that your child can concretely follow the plan.
- How will you set your family up for morning success by doing things in advance?
- Do screens need to be present in the morning? Make a plan for when they are turned on and when they are turned off. If they are too much of a distraction for parents or children, turn them off today and try again tomorrow (or next week).