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Morning School Routines: 3 Tips to Calm the Chaos

Frustrated parent concept. Exhausted mom pours coffee past cup. Naughty child plays noisily and jumps. Tired mother and hyperactive son. Difficult parenting vector illustration. Sad woman, depression.

A morning family routine is a combination of different types of skills: time management, sequencing, and organization. While we wish we could snap our fingers like a certain magical mouse and hope that the magic of Disney would turn our mornings into a fairytale, that’s not always the case. 

Here are 3 things to remember to help reframe your morning routines so they work and flow for everyone.

eliminate morning chaos by noticing without judgment

1. Notice Without Judgment

Mornings without structure can bring out the sleepy bears in us that roar demands to get things done. While several cups of coffee can help soothe us into a more awakened state, showing up calmly and modeling focused behavior for our children helps them to also feel calm and focused.

Harsh demands like this, “I’m only going to say this one more time! GO. GET. DRESSED!” will often instill a feeling of guilt and a feeling of judgment in our kids. Just as we sometimes struggle to get ourselves going in the morning, our kids can and will feel the same. Demanding tasks and yelling only induce feelings of anxiety and will often lead to tasks getting done halfway or not as thoroughly. 

When we take a moment to step back, calm ourselves, and remember that we can help guide them to tasks by noticing what still needs to be accomplished, we help put them in their own driver’s seat to navigate what to do next. Instead, try this: “Your shoes and socks are still in your bedroom. We have five more minutes before we leave.” 

By noticing and giving them a note on the time left, they can work through how to time manage the next five minutes to successfully complete their morning tasks.

eliminate morning chaos by prompting with a question

2. Prompt With A Question

When we know we’re on a time crunch and the clock is winding down, our personal anxieties can manifest into an interrogation directed at our children. 

“Where are your socks? Why are your shoes still in your closet? I don’t understand what’s taking you so long!”

Imagine for a moment your boss approaching you the same way with an impending deadline. How would that make you feel? Overwhelmed? Stressed? Like you’re a disappointment or failure? When we lead with a brash string of questioning, these same feelings can manifest in our children as they try to keep up with the demands being handed to them. One way to encourage a less stressful morning is to prompt them with a single question that allows them to analyze their own task list.

Try this instead: “Your pants and shirt are on? What’s missing?”

By prompting in this way, you encourage collaboration and help them understand their own sequencing of what needs to occur next, and by guiding them calmly, they feel more empowered in their choice. Remember, our kids are learning these skills from us and you are exactly who your child needs to learn these skills.

eliminate morning chaos by offering support

3. Offer Support, Not Guilt

“You’re wasting time. Don’t you know we have to leave early today? Do you want me to get fired for being late?”

Sound familiar?

As parents, we have a running list of all the tasks that need to be completed in order to get out the door. We’re also aware that the main highway to get to school is under construction and we have to take a detour on a side street in order to bypass the morning traffic that will inevitably get funneled into a slow one-lane crawl. 

Unfortunately, our children aren’t aware of these details. While we have expertly crafted our strategy to get to school with the least amount of headache, our child won’t feel the same urgency nor have the same understanding as to why leaving promptly at 7:34 will give us that extra cushion of time to avoid the influx of cars all trying to make their morning commute.

When we keep our expectations realistic and offer support instead of guilt, we remove the possibility of overwhelming our children and handing more than is appropriate to them. Putting the blame on our children for our lateness will turn an opportunity for connection and learning, into a mindset of shame.

When you feel this, take a step back and remind yourself that this isn’t an emergency. You already have the skills to respond with compassion, and by doing so, you can empower your child to strengthen their own morning routine skills.

Instead of guilt, offer support in their tasks that still need to be completed.

“You got your shoes. Great! Which one are we putting on first, left or right?

By supporting them and guiding them through the potential next steps, you validate what they have already accomplished and allow them to take ownership of what still needs to be completed. 

It’s our jobs as parents to show up in healthy ways for our children and to set an example for what healthy mornings could look like. When we practice waking ourselves, not just physically–but mentally and emotionally–we model and teach our kids skills to also wake themselves in the same way. Remember, Disneyland has spent time tweaking its parking structure to the symphonic flow that it is. Be patient with yourself as you work to establish a more seamless morning routine. 

Want more help and tips like this? Get tons of ideas out of the Motivated Child Summit, which contains more than 20 expert interviews. The Motivated Child Summit is available to you, along with nearly 100 other interviews, with a subscription to the GoZen! Summit Library. Start your access today!

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