If you are a parent, step-parent, nanny, or in-home behavior support person, you know full-well, how difficult the early morning routine can be. I (Missy) have always been an early morning person. Back before I acquired my new status (Bonus Mom), I often arose before 5am to get in my workout before showering and heading to a local coffee shop to write. Oh those were the days……..Oh, sorry! I lost track of my purpose. I started dreaming of Austin and those stress-free mornings.
Now it’s all different. I often wake as early as 5am so that I can write, answer emails, bill for services, grade quizzes for class, and a host of other morning duties. That is all done before the kids get up. We let the kids sleep until they wake up naturally. There are advantages of this (less crabby) and disadvantages (crazy mornings). However, we follow a few simple steps to make sure that our mornings are successful regardless of the waking hour.
Start the Night Before
Yes, I know that after school is just as hectic as before school. However, if you take a few steps the night before, stress the next day is eliminated.
Lay Out Clothes
Have the kids pick out the clothes for the next day before they go to sleep. This prevents tantrums over what to wear and dilly dallying about finding matching outfits. We require this step to be completed before the kids have night time television. If the clothes are new (or from last year), consider having the child try the clothes on to ensure a proper fit.
Identify breakfast foods
Yes, we plan ahead. We have learned that if we identify the food for breakfast, we have less junk behavior leading up to and during breakfast. And no, we don’t allow changes to the menu (unless we have a serious issue such as the molded cream cheese we had this morning).
Ok, we totally get that we are over-achievers. But seriously, if the lunch is packed the night before, we have less to do in the morning. We ask the kids to decide if they are eating school lunch (totally over-fat and over processed) or lunch from home. From there, we ask them to pick their protein, fruit, vegetable, and starch. Our kids get at least one snack in school so we have them pick those as well. If we have time, we have the kids make their own lunch. This is not always feasible given the afternoon and evening schedules.
To bed! ON TIME
We have done this without fail since I moved in to this step-mothering role. In fact, Norm engaged in this practice long before me. But honestly, if I hadn’t read Ado’s blog, I probably would have left this one off the list because it is so engrained in our lives.
Wake up naturally
Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. If we see that the kids are sleeping too long, we will begin to make natural noise (e.g., walking around, talking more loudly, etc).
Work Before Play
My other half likes to allow the kids to wake up slowly by vegging in front of the television. He keeps a strict rule of TV off at 7:30. This goes against the laws of behavior. You see, children will work faster to earn a reinforcer. So, my rule is TV does not go on until breakfast is eaten, teeth are brushed, beds are made, and children are fully clothed. Then I reward all of that hard work with TV time. The beauty here is that the faster the children get ready, the more TV time they earn.
We like to make the children be responsible. How else will they learn to take care of themselves? So, they have to put their lunches and fluids in to their backpacks. Homework folders, permission forms, and the like must also go in the back pack. Again, we prefer to do this the night before but it is good to walk the kids through the process of remembering everything before they leave.
Bus or Drop Off
Our school requests that children ride the bus. First, this is more green. Second, it cuts down on traffic at the school. Finally, the bus comes about 20 minutes before drop-off time. I need all the time I can get. So, I institute another rule: if you miss the bus, no TV time after homework.
How do you get through the morning routine? Do you start the night before like we do? Do you have anything to add to our strategies?