One of the biggest problems facing parents is the morning routine, and all the difficulties associated with just getting out the door on time. What makes the process so nerve-wracking is that you know that every extra minute that you spend trying to get your child to finish breakfast is also one less minute that you’ll have to get to school on time.
As a result, the morning routine can quickly turn into a battle of wills. It’s you - with all of your rational, logical thinking - pitted against your small one, who has absolutely no understanding of why everything just seems to matter so much. So, instead of both of you collaborating together to solve a common problem - the way it works in the grown-up world - you find yourself prodding and cajoling, or surreptitiously trying to sneak in one...last...spoonful of oatmeal.
The good news is that every morning doesn’t have to become an epic battle of wills. You don’t have to wake up every morning feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle against time to get to school on time. Here are a few quick tips to help you make your morning routine more enjoyable:
Tip 1: Focus on the “routine” in morning routine
Deep down, your child wants to embrace the familiar. They want structure in their lives. They are little pattern-recognition machines -- but first they have to understand the pattern they are going to follow. So you really have to commit to make the morning routine very similar every day.
Tip 2: Communicate throughout the routine
It may sound obvious, but just telling your little one what will happen next can go a long way in getting out the door on time. You need to break down one big task - getting dressed, having breakfast, and brushing teeth - into a series of smaller steps that they can process and understand.
Tip 3: Focus on making your little one as independent as possible
Yes, it just seems so much easier just to do everything for them, but you really need to give your little ones as much autonomy as possible to get things done – like picking out their own clothes or cleaning up. Even the smallest toddlers need to feel that they are doing things on their own - not that things are happening to them. When they are included as part of the overall process, they will be much more willing to give you their full participation.
Tip 4: Acknowledge - but don’t reward - a job well done
There’s a fine line between a “reward” and a “bribe.” There, I’ve said it. If the only reason your small one is cooperating in the morning is because you’re adding a chocolate sweet to his or her daily lunch, you’re not really making progress. Instead, think of ways that you can offer praise that acknowledges a job well done. Not just the “good job” throwaway line, but also an explanation of why the “good job” matters. For example, you might say something like, “I’m so glad you finished your toast today. Now your stomach is going to feel good the whole day and you’ll have fun at school.”
In following these steps, be able to anticipate what your small one might say. For example, it’s easy for even a relatively well-meaning child to bombard you with that tricky question - “Why?” - if you try to become too logical. But, if you’re anticipating this question, you’ll be able to answer very easily, “Why? Because Step 2 always follows Step 1. You know that, sweetie.”
Practice makes perfect. Within a shorter period of time than you ever thought possible, you’ll have turned your morning routine into what it should be: efficient and drama-free.