“Morning Express” Yourself: Do you just rise, or do you rise and shine?
If your mornings are too stressful, here are some tips for you’re a.m. routine so that you won’t just rise, you’ll rise and shine. Go ahead and “express yourself”:
1. Wake Up! Get started earlier than your children
For your children there must be a distinction made between “waking up” and “getting out of the bedroom”. Just because Junior is awake does not mean that he should have free reign throughout the entire home. You can’t control when Junior wakes up, but you can control when you give him access to the rest of the home. If you are not ready to get your child’s day started, he is welcome to play on his own. If he fights or resists you, then it may be helpful to get up earlier so that you give yourself more time to prepare before Junior gets going each morning. Or, it may be time to set a boundary (e.g., perhaps with a gate in the doorway or keeping closed the door of Junior’s bedroom) until you are ready to help Junior with his morning tasks and responsibilities.
2. The Morning Routine Must Become Way of Life
The waking-up/morning routine is non-negotiable, just like wearing a seat-belt in the car or holding hands in a busy parking lot. This means that there must be consequences established for noncompliance (e.g., an earlier bedtime that night).
3. Stagger the Wake-Up Times for Your Kids (or the times that they are allowed to leave their rooms)
For families with more than one child, staggering the wake-up times for the children often goes a long way in reducing morning stress. It probably makes sense to start with the younger children who need the most help, but, of course, this staggered schedule may be dictated by the biological sleep-wake cycles of each of your children.
4. To “win” the clothing and breakfast food “wars,” make those choices the night before
Allow Junior to choose an outfit (including all accessories and undergarments) the night before, and then absolutely stick to that choice the next day. Similarly, if Junior has a tendency to drag out breakfast, choose breakfast food the night before (or use a weekly “menu”). Again, as long as you were reasonable in the choices you offered, it is important to remain “guilt- and anger-free” as you stick with the routine, even over screams and protests. The message to your child is clear: “I am respecting you and giving you clothing and breakfast food choices (within reason), and I expect you to honor your choices the next morning because we have professional or academic obligations and we need to be on time.”
5. Be careful about morning television
It may be tempting to use television in the morning to “occupy” the kids, but that comes with a cost. The children are off in a “zone” and you lose the opportunity to connect with them, both for meaningful conversation and for them to follow your instructions/comply with your requests.
6. An ounce of prevention (and preparation!) is worth a pound of cure
Make lunches and organize backpacks/homework the night before.
7. Make No Exceptions on the weekends (at first)
If your morning routine is really unstructured and scattered, you may want to practice the routine even on weekends. Remember, practice makes (almost) perfect. Once the morning routine seems to be improved, then you can go back to “slacking” on the weekends.
8. Parents Model Positive Morning Behavior
If you are grumpy, frenetic, and scattered in the morning, how can you expect anything else from your children? Work on your own morning routines in hopes that your behavior will eventually serve as a positive model for morning routines. Don’t just say it, do it: greet your kids with a cheerful "Good Morning" and then have a good morning!