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Morning Struggles?

Parenting Strategies for Success



My husband and I work and have to stick to a schedule. How can we get our kids – ages eight and eleven – to school on time? They are so slow in the morning.


Oh yes, that hectic morning routine. Parents everywhere struggle with exactly the same issue, so know that you are not alone. In fact, after questions about sleep, this is one of the most common issues I deal with when I work with parents in consultation.

There is much you can do to get those kids moving, and it all starts with the night before. Since time is limited in the morning with little flexibility as to schedules for both parents and children, you need to get many jobs that relate to getting out the door completed the prior evening. This requires a bit of planning, but pays off in a more pleasant start to the day for everyone involved.

Let’s look at the things we can check off the morning to-do list by starting the evening before. First, there is lunch. If your children take their lunches, they should be made the night before. If you are making lunch for your children, I would suggest you give that job to them. Parents who work have a lot on their plates (pun intended), and kids need to learn to pitch in – particularly when it comes to issues of self-care and maintenance. Eight and 11-year-olds are certainly capable of preparing lunch as long as the fixings are easily available.

Next, make sure your children decide what they are going to wear the next day, and lay out their clothes. If a favorite item is in the laundry, or if uniforms are not clean, allow for enough time for laundry to be done. Again, I would suggest that after some instruction, you turn this over to your children.

Once the clothing has been dealt with, it is time for them to pack up their backpacks and set them by the door so that they don’t have to go searching for them at the last minute. Set a time limit for this job to get done. Whatever is not in the backpack by lights-out should be left at home. If this means homework – and your child gets marked down a grade – this can act as a motivator for future behavior.

As an aside, it can be very helpful to teach your kids to use a big, very visible block calendar for planning ahead. This can go a long way toward organizational skills, which may help the morning routine go more smoothly. Remember, the less panic at the last minute, the better for all concerned.

I have saved my most important tip for last. In my experience, what slows down the morning routine more than anything else is the issue of screens. Once you allow your children to turn on their electronics, you have put a huge obstacle in the way of the goal: getting out of the house on time. A rule of “no screens in the morning” is absolutely key to a pleasant morning for the entire family. If you have been allowing them in the past, you will surely get some push-back from your children, but if you stick to your guns, they will get over it, probably in less time than you would anticipate. I can almost promise you this.

It is so important that families begin the day on a positive note. Nagging and yelling can start everyone off on the wrong foot. In addition, by shifting some of the jobs to your children, you are building a work ethic and instilling self-confidence and independence. These skills will serve your two children well.

Susan Brown holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology, as well as degrees in early childhood education and psychology. A mother, teacher, children’s book author, and nationally known family educator, she works with clients at Everyday Parenting Solutions.
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