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Back to School Honeymoon is Over

Three Steps to a Smooth Morning Routine

As we move deeper into the school year, it’s likely that the honeymoon period that had us whistling Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to school we go!, is slowly being replaced with Let’s go, let’s go, I won’t be late no-mo! The truth is, navigating the school year successfully takes a bit of planning, a flexible attitude, and a willingness to make course corrections when necessary.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

    A) You’ve gone from making the kids favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, helping them find the perfect outfit, and ensuring their backpacks were organized and well stocked to:

      Throwing a cold bagel on a napkin while you insist they put on more suitable clothing as you yell “it’s not MY backpack, where did you put it last?”, as you walk out the door shaking your head and wondering how everything deteriorated so quickly.
    B) You’ve gone from providing a yummy post-school snack, with plenty of time to talk about the day and go through the backpack together, read all the notes from school, sign all the necessary forms and provide a quiet place for homework to:

      Throw pre-cut carrots in a bowl, tossing papers straight into the bin, and arguing about whether homework will get done now or after dinner.
    C) And maybe, you’ve switched from calm baths with time to connect, a few books to end the evening, a warm hug, lights out and the kids all dreaming of sugar plum fairies by 8:00 pm to:

      Kids fighting about everything from who gets to pet the dog to whose turn it is to use the iPod next, refusal to bathe and wash teeth, increased nagging to get the kids upstairs so you can start the bedtime routine to shouts of THERE WILL BE NO BOOKS AT ALL TONIGHT, to a few rushed kisses, lights off and half way down the stairs you here MAMA… MAMA… MAMA!!!!

Yup, that’s what it was like in my house all those years ago. And, here is what I learned:

Making one change and sticking with it for 3 weeks will create some positive momentum.

Then slowly and surely you can begin to attack other areas that have you pulling your hair out and wishing you had dropped the kids off at college instead of the local elementary school.

I suggest the best place to start is with Morning Routines.

In my experience, a strong, organized morning routine will help set the tone for the rest of the day. Plus, you can use the strategies for morning routines to deal with homework hassles and bedtime bedlam. You know me, I want to work smarter, not harder, and that means finding strategies that work in multiple ways.

Now, new parents, before you get out the pen and paper scribing exactly how you want the morning to go thinking this is the time to “tell em how this is going to work”, it’s time to think about the areas of the morning that are tripping up the kids. Maybe they’re not trained with how to get themselves ready, make breakfast, set an alarm, pack the bag. Maybe they haven’t been asked what THEY want to wear, when & how they want to wake, and what the perfect morning looks like to them.

Your Homework

Step 1. Take a few mornings to NOTICE where the kids are tripped up. When you find yourself getting ready to remind, nag, bribe, and do it for them, PAUSE. Write it down. You want to pack the bag? Pause. Johnny needs training on how to pack a bag. Uh oh, you start in on the reminders of what time it is? Pause. Might be time to talk about keeping time. You get it… (For those of you who’ve been with us a while – this is a mild form of Do Nothing, Say Nothing for the mornings.)

Step 2. Make a date to talk with your kids about what they’d like to see in a perfect morning. This doesn’t happen when you’re rushing out the door. Maybe it’s at dinner, or over a snack or during the weekend. Choose a time when you can be as encouraging and non-judgemental as possible. Ask questions about what they believe needs to happen in the AM, in which order, and when? Be ready to oblige. Be ready to let them choose. Feel like too much? Just agree to try one or two of their ideas. And let them roll with it.

Step 3. Avoid the urge to slip into your old habits. Just see how it goes. No need to point out anything that’s not perfect… they’re trying something new! And you signed up to let them. Hey, what’s the worst thing that can happen? They realize it wasn’t a good idea, that you trusted them to try something new, and you were available to help them later when they needed to try again. You’re raising an adult after all. Trust them. Trust yourself.

Establishing a child-led morning routine is one way to implement a more democratic approach to parenting. It takes time, but if you want it badly enough, step back and observe the tripping points, carve out time to consider your kids’ ideas, and practice patience as you let them make choices, mistakes – and celebrate the successes!

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