Maybe you started out the school year on the right foot. All those discussions with about your kids getting organised, laying their clothes out the night before, getting out of bed on time, eating their breakfast, getting through the morning without arguments—you really thought you got through to them.
And maybe things went relatively smoothly—for the first few days. But here we are, near the end of the third month back at school, and all those old behaviours are back. Your child might have even added some new annoying behaviours to the mix!
The key to a successful morning routine is to know exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Specific tasks and clear systems help everyone stay on track with minimal discussion.
Signs your morning routine isn’t working:
- You’re starting to resent how much time it takes to pry your child out of bed every day. It’s not even 7 am, and you’ve already had six arguments.
- You find yourself scrambling to help your child with a school problem they “forgot” to do last night, even though you asked several times about their homework. (Last night, they didn’t have any homework.)
- There’s so much eye-rolling, heaving, sighing, and dragging of feet in your morning routine, you’d think it was a sitcom not your actual life.
- Here are some practical tips to help mornings go a little more smoothly for everyone.
Look, the morning routine is tough on a lot of families. If you’re struggling with this, you are not alone. At school we hear this every day from parents just like you. Morning wrestling matches—arguments, battles of will, power struggles—happen for every family. The good news is you can turn your mornings around. And although your kids probably won’t thank you for it, everyone will benefit.
- Discuss your morning routine or place timetables in their room: Set some time aside to discuss your rules and expectations, clearly laying out for your child what’s not working, and what needs to change. When your morning gets stressful, refer your child back to the conversation you’ve already had or the visual timetable in his room, rather than get into another argument. “We’ve discussed this already (you have a timetable). You know what you need to do, now go do it.”
- Choose one or two behaviours at a time. I bet there are a million things you want your child to do better and not just during the morning routine. Children get overwhelmed when you give them a long list of things they’re doing wrong. Think of it this way: if your boss comes to your desk and rattles off 16 things you need to improve, you’re not only going to be overwhelmed but also a little annoyed. Don’t you do anything right? Give your child a chance to gain skills and confidence by focusing on one or two behaviours that need to change. Choose the top two annoying morning behaviours, and come up with a specific action plan to address those issues. Talk with your child about the things they can do to improve those one or two things, and help them come up with ways they can meet your expectations.
- To see real changes, be specific: It’s not enough to tell your child, “You need to remember your homework.” Your child needs to know exactly what she can do differently in order to remember her homework. To help her build organizational skills, think specific action steps rather than vague directions. Talk through some ideas together. Use picture cues. If there are things she can do the night before to prepare for the morning, make sure those are clear. The key to a successful morning routine is to know exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Specific tasks and clear systems help everyone stay on track with minimal discussion.
- Coach your child, then step out of the picture: Waking your child up five times every morning, reminding them every ten minutes that they need to make their lunch or pack their sports kit. The good news is, you can stop working so hard. It isn’t working anyway. If you’ve had a clear discussion or visual timetable about your rules and expectations for the morning routine, all you need to do in the morning is remind your child of the rules or pictures. In the beginning, you may need to do some coaching, but resist that urge to jump in and do the work for him.
- Let the school enforce consequences. Your child’s school has rules and expectations for their pupils. We have consequences in place for pupils who don’t meet those expectations. This is a great opportunity for you to step out of the drama and allow someone else to enforce the rules. Remember, your child is the one who needs to work harder at getting to school on time or finishing their assignments on time. You’ve been through all this in your own childhood—you don’t need to do it all again.
- No matter what happens, step away from the arguments. There’s no good time to get into an argument with your child, but the early hours of the day are definitely not a good time. No one needs extra drama in the morning, especially not you. Instead of getting into daily morning arguments, remind your child of the rules, give them a little bit of coaching, and step out of the way. Arguments only delay things that are already taking far too long.