From Morning Chaos to Morning Ritual
Mornings can be such a hassle. The children are begging for “five more minutes” before they have to get out of bed. Maybe the twins are arguing over what clothes to wear to school that day. Johnny is in no hurry to do anything. Everybody’s running behind. You’re worried about the children being late to school, you’re frustrated at having to ask your children repeatedly to get up and ready for the day, and you’re thinking that your day is already off to a bumpy start.
How can you handle things differently to create a different start to each day?
- Create a morning ritual. Communicate your expectations for your children’s responsibilities within the ritual. No five-more-minutes. Everybody showers in a set order so that everybody takes a turn without fighting over who is next. Limit showers to a given number of minutes.
- Each evening, have your children select and set out what clothes they will wear the next day. At bedtime, have your children gather what they will need for the next day’s activities . . . ensure that all homework is done and stowed in their backpacks, lunches are packed and set in the refrigerator, etc.
- Set an example. If you want your children to exhibit certain behaviors, then it is ideal if you and your nanny can exhibit those same behaviors. For example, if you expect your children to get out of bed promptly and be cheerful (or at least not unpleasant) each morning, then you should behave similarly.
- Create a morning checklist of your children’s morning tasks (i.e., getting up, showering, dressing, making their beds, etc.). Or you and your children can make and decorate small wall poster reminder signs, one for each morning task. For example, if you make one poster for “making your bed”, your children can then draw beds, pillows, or whatever image they wish to represent bed making on the poster.
- In some households, getting everybody up at the same time works best. In other households, staggering wake-up times so that children who need more assistance (i.e., toddlers) or who take longer (i.e., teen girls who fuss over hair and cosmetics) get up first, while others get to sleep a little later.
- You should maintain responsibility for waking your younger children. Your older children should be given alarm clocks and the responsibility for their own rising each morning.
- Provide a nutritious breakfast that is low in refined sugar. Ideally, breakfast menus will be pre-planned to minimize, “But I WANTED . . .” from your children.
- Reward good behavior. For example, if Marcus behaves well and meets expectations for the morning ritual, including getting out of bed on time, eating his breakfast, etc., then he will receive one half-hour with the Wii that evening.
- Redirect behavior that falls short of expectations. For example, “Marcus, you know that showers are limited to five minutes. Because you were in the shower 15 minutes, you delayed your sister’s shower, and now the whole family is behind schedule. It is important that you both get to school on time . . . otherwise, you get into trouble at school . . . so, I’d like you to commit to doing better tomorrow. OK?” (Meanwhile, Marcus will not be able to play with the Wii that evening.)
By following these steps, you can go from morning chaos to a calm, organized morning ritual.