Ask most parents about when their family experiences stress and getting out the door in the morning comes in among the top answers. With the right routine and words, mornings can flow and be one of the happiest times in your family’s day.
As with any major parenting issue I always look at what routines are set up. Without a solid routine, one that is set up discussed and practiced, most parenting issues cannot be solved.
Children thrive on routines. They feel comforted by them because they love to know what is coming up next. I liken this to an adult’s feelings of knowing that every April and December there will be a holiday. It’s so comforting to know that each and every year these holidays will be there for us. Can you imagine if one year the holidays constantly changed so that you never knew when your next break would be? Translate that feeling to the way a child feels about their day and I think you’ll understand why routine is so important to them.
Routine always gives children a sense of being capable. When they are able to take care of themselves or follow their routine they gain a sense of self-worth. This is a main trait that is needed in order to be resilient. The importance of resiliency is a topic for a whole other article, but it’s worth mentioning here. If we want to raise resilient children we must give them self-worth and the feeling that they are capable and one way to do this is through their routine.
Getting back to the point at hand, what does a solid morning routine look like? Every family will feel comfortable with their own specialized routine, however in general, here are some actions that need to occur at specific times:
• Waking up
• Getting dressed
• Eating breakfast
• Brushing Teeth
• Brushing hair
• Putting Shoes and Coat on
• Leaving the House
Create the time schedule that you think will work best for your family and then share it with your children. If you have children 12 and older then ask for their experiences/suggestions after sharing; they’ll appreciate your respect in asking them. With smaller kids it’s helpful to practice the routine so they get a feel for it. (Like role-play).
If you need to use a kitchen timer for certain parts of the routine do so, particularly if you’ve been having difficulties with certain things like dressing. Kids love to beat a clock and appreciate having a clock telling them that time is up rather than their parent’s voice. However, if you haves mall children who are just starting school, skip the timer and see how they do on their own without the timer; the discussing and practicing should be enough.
One key point to remember when creating your routine is to consider the areas in which your child might struggle. If they have shown that they dawdle while eating breakfast then be sure to have them dress and brush their teeth and hair BEFORE they eat their breakfast. If they tend to dawdle and don’t have time to eat that morning, the natural consequence will be that they’ll be hungry and will rethink their choice the following day. (Be sure to inform their teacher in this instance)
The last three things that are key to making mornings flow are:
1) Being organized
Be sure to have lunches packed the night before and have backpacks sitting at the exit door ready to receive them in the morning.
The breakfast option should also be thought through. Could you mix up the eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon the night before so all you have to do is dip bread in it for French toast the next morning?
2) Being calm
Your mood can change the whole morning. Get a good night’s sleep (in bed by 10pm) and wake up just a bit earlier than the children to allow you to take a few deep breaths or do a quick stretching routine.
Keep your tone of voice matter-of-fact when you speak to your kids and give lots of smiles and hugs.
3) Being consistent
You must stick to your word if your child makes a choice you wish they wouldn’t have. One or two days of going hungry won’t kill them. Just remember: show no emotion and remain matter-of-fact in your tone – no attitude. If your child senses your emotion or tone, the will respond with a similar type of behavior.
Finding your own family’s routine and consistently following through on it will help you and your children move through the mornings with ease. Try it. You’ll see and feel the difference!