The start of school is just around the corner…which means packing lunches, brushing teeth, checking homework, and making sure your child is dressed appropriately for the weather…all before 9am! Getting ready in the morning can be a huge stressor for families, leaving everyone rushed and frazzled at the start of the day.
Too often we as parents result to nagging, arguing, coaxing, and just doing it for them because we don’t know what else to do. As you kick off the new school year try letting routine be the boss instead of you! Externalizing expectations and processes can help getting out the door run smoother, and it teaches kids the lifeskill of time-management.
Here are four steps to building and implementing a routine:
Children are much more likely to follow through with a plan that they helped to develop. When building a routine don’t simply dictate what needs to happen and in what order. Work with your child to come up with a plan that works for everyone. It helps to come prepared, so jot down the things you know need to happen in the morning [getting dressed, packing their backpack, brushing hair and teeth etc.] Let them decide what order to do them in. If you find that getting dressed after breakfast isn’t working you can always adjust, but let them have a say in how the morning runs.
Make It Visible
Make sure that the routine is highly visible in prominent spaces. If steps of the routine involve multiple levels of the house have it posted on both floors [the fridge and a bedroom door]. You can let your child type it up, write it on a whiteboard, or make handwritten copies. If your child can’t read add pictures [hand drawn, clip art, or even polaroids of the various tasks].
Add Some Fun
Whether it is a 2 minute dance party, getting some extra reading time, or a quick game of tag - let them add an element of fun into the routine. Work with them to see what makes the most sense. Often as parents we only allow for fun if everything is finished, but sometimes a little break in the middle of the morning can help kids rally and feel motivated to finish in good spirits.
Trust the Process
Once you have settled on a routine and externalized it avoid the urge to nag and coax. Instead, if you find your child lagging or resisting simply say to them, “What should you be doing next?” or “What is next on your routine?” Remember, there will still be days where they wake up on the wrong side of the bed and you need to help them along, but in general never do for a child what they can do for themselves. Sometimes they will push the boundaries to see how serious you are, be prepared to let them live with the consequences. If they forget their homework let them work it out on their own with their teacher. If they refuse to wear a coat trust they can handle being cold for a day. If they miss the bus you can charge them cab fair for making you drive them to school! If the order of the routine is breaking down have a family meeting that evening and start at step one again!
There may be tough days, but overall when the process and and expectations are clear, children rise to the occasion. Routines can be a sanity saver for parents and it can bring order and structure for children. Feel free to develop routines for mornings, evenings, dinner, weekends…anything that helps your family work together better!
And hopefully you can use all the time not having to coax your kids along to actually savor that morning cup of coffee!