Beat Morning Madness and Get Kids Out the Door on Time with Less Stress

“What do you mean you forgot to comb your hair? Where did you put your backpack? Hurry up! We’re going to be late again.” If your house and family are anything like mine, at least 10 things go awry in the morning and threaten to make you late. There’s nothing worse than starting your day feeling frazzled and rushed. Let’s face it. If you feel stressed, so will your kids. Try these tips to curtail some of the morning rush and still head out the door on time.

Move the temptation to snooze. My kids have their own alarm clock in their room, because I believe it helps them learn to be responsible and get themselves up and around on school days. The clock is placed across the room to make it more difficult to roll over and hit the snooze button. The plan is not a guarantee, but once they’re out of bed to shut off the alarm they aren’t as likely to climb back into bed. Of course, Mom also serves as a backup alarm on the rare occasion that they can’t resist the urge to snuggle back under the covers.

Create erasable checklists to help kids stay on schedule and remember everything. Even the most responsible kids sometimes forget things or get sidetracked when getting ready in the morning. Cut down on the amount of reminders you have to give by providing reusable checklists for them, such as “do at home” and “take with me” lists. Provide them with a dry-erase marker to check off the items or write extra reminders at the bottom. Parents of younger kids might choose to use pictures instead of words on checklists.

Avoid the rush by preparing the night before. There used to be a daily last minute rush in my home to gather library books or milk money, or search for that one sneaker gone missing in action. To cut down on the precious time wasted in the mornings tending to these tasks, I now prepare as much as possible the evening before. Papers are signed and homework and books get tucked in backpacks the night before. My girls also know that sneakers or other items needed for special classes the following day should be taken care of before they go to bed.

Keep distractions to a minimum – for the kids and you. We have a rule in our house that the TV, computer, and toys are off limits until the kids are ready in the morning. Once cartoons are on and the toys come out, all concept of time goes out the window! On the mornings when the kids are ready ahead of schedule, they get to enjoy a few minutes of TV or play time until we need to leave.

Get kids to pitch in. This frees up a few minutes for you to get ready in the morning and teaches children responsibility. To encourage the girls to help themselves to breakfast in the morning, I store healthy and easy-to-prepare breakfast items at kid level in the refrigerator and cupboards. Lunches can be packed the night before or prepared that morning, but make it a group effort. My 10-year-old daughter is an expert sandwich maker! Even younger kids can handle small jobs like gathering fruit, juice boxes, lunch meat, and bread needed for lunches.

Get up earlier! Here’s an obvious suggestion but one that is often avoided. If you find you and the kids are constantly rushing and still leaving late every day, set the alarm for an earlier time. Adding an extra 20 minutes to get ready in the morning has made a huge difference for my family. Just resist the urge to fill that extra time with unnecessary tasks and find yourself still leaving behind schedule.

Instead of yelling or nagging repeatedly to get kids out the door, make it a challenge. Announce one time that it’s time to go, and then start singing a predetermined song. Challenge them to be out the door before the song ends. Need to get them out the door faster one day? Sing faster!

Incorporating these tips into a daily morning routine help get the day started on the right foot. After all, I don’t want my parting words to my children to be, “Hurry up! We’re late.” Less hectic mornings allow me to send them off to school feeling prepared and loved, not stressed.

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