With 3 primary age boys and a 12 month old baby, mornings were not necessarily the most serene time of the day. Despite telling myself that I was not going to yell, nag and spend all morning chasing children around the house with a hairbrush…I would wake up early with the best of intentions, only to find myself yet again, running around the house chasing children with hairbrush and toothbrush, whilst trying to find matching socks that were the right colour, style and ankle length in order to succumb to the particular fashion whim of each child. I would drop the children off at school, sweating now from the last minute dash around the house to find 3 gold coins for free dress day, a favourite toy for show and tell, last nights spelling words, the tennis racquet for the lunchtime lesson and the footy boots for the after school footy training. I would kiss them goodbye, be left with the relative peace of a 1 year old, and find myself wondering yet again what all the fuss was about and why I had yet again found myself saying the same things over and over again in a voice that sounded more like a fishmongers wife than the loving devoted mother of four. I decided that there must be a better way. After all, not everyone looked like they had spent the whole morning nagging the same requests with droning repetition…or did they? (we as mothers are pretty good at covering up as my friends would often comment on how calm I always appeared!) I set about coming up with a plan that I devised in conjunction with my children…and…although not always perfect, my mornings are now pretty close to stress free, even allowing me time for a few extra cuddles and chats about the day ahead and sometimes even a quick before school visit to check up on the artwork adorning the walls of my youngest sons classroom. (I did say sometimes!)
Like all successful plans, my morning routine relies on some pretty tried and true principles – planning, patience and practise.
It requires a simple routine for each child, which when completed, can be rewarded. Together with your child, write a list of everything they need to do before they walk out the door each morning. For smaller children you may want to draw simple pictures that they can also understand. The list should be placed somewhere where it can easily be followed and may even have space to tick off each task as it is completed. Discuss with your child how the routines are going to work so that everyone is clear with what is expected.
Tasks on your list should include such things as
- Have breakfast -I prefer this to be done first to avoid Weetbix being caked onto clean school shirts
- Brush teeth -again I prefer this done early to avoid toothpaste down the front of aforementioned clean shirts
- Brush Hair
- Get dressed – this includes socks and shoes!!!
- Pack Bag -includes lunch and drink bottle (with water in it!), notices and excursion forms that were signed and sealed in an envelope with correct money the night before, homework and hat.
- Pack any extras – this requires an extra timetable for each child to look to the corresponding day to see if they need library books, tennis racquet for lunchtime lesson, after school sporting gear, art smocks, show and tell etc
And that’s it! Once everything on that list is completed and the child is literally ready to walk out the door, then they can be rewarded by participating in any agreed upon activity for however long they have left, before the agreed upon time to walk out the door. The activity may be watching TV, playing computer games, playing with the dog, playing outside, reading a book or listening to music. The more efficient the child is at getting the tasks done, the more time they will have for an enjoyable activity of their choice. In households with more than one child it may be a good idea to prohibit the television as a reward as this is often a distraction for those lagging behind still fumbling their way through breakfast.
For this to work however, there are a few things that must be adhered to. Firstly make sure everyone is actually awake and out of bed with plenty of time to complete all the tasks. If this is a struggle you may need to look at changing the time your children go to bed at night.
Make sure you walk out the door on time. Some may say that you should let your child go to school with hair not brushed, no shoes, no lunch etc and that they will soon learn…however I myself find this more embarrassing for me as a mother. My boys are yet to care too much about a bit of bed hair sticking out all over the place, and I would still find it difficult tucking into my soup and crusty bread roll at lunchtime whilst staring at my sons lunchbox that has been left on the bench in order to teach him a lesson. If they are still slow at undertaking a task, gentle reminders of the task list will help get them on track. If there is no television on and no computer games allowed, they will be far more inclined to work through their list in order to get to do something more fun (this includes wrestling with siblings which is also not allowed until all the tasks are done). And remember to praise them when certain tasks are completed efficiently. Simple words of encouragement carry far more weight than the drone of a nagging voice.
Patience and planning are the key. Change takes time so don’t expect overnight success and be prepared for sick children, morning meetings and early band practises to throw things out a little…but do be confident in knowing that for the most part – you can have a happy and nag free morning routine, a leisurely walk or drive to school and a positive and happy start to everyone’s day.
- Agree on a time to walk out the door
- Write a list of tasks to be completed
- Reward the completed list with free time
- Walk out the door with minimal stress and no nagging!
Best of luck and let me know how you go with your morning routines.