You fantasize about peaceful mornings where you eat a calm, nutritious breakfast with your children while you leisurely sip your coffee. Your children have made their beds, put their clothes on, packed their back packs, and combed their hair. Your morning routine is solid.
You’re dressed in a cute outfit that is actually clean and you have even switched the laundry. There is enough extra time in your morning that you have the chance to have a pleasant conversation or even read aloud to your children. Your mornings are peaceful.
Then you snap back to your reality.
You need to head out the door in twenty minutes and your children are still in their pajamas with bed head and morning breath. The children are arguing over who gets which cereal and you jump into referee their fight.
You haven’t even poured your first cup of coffee and tanked up on the necessary caffeine to deal with all this nonsense. You check the clock again – just fifteen minutes to get everyone fed, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and out the door.
Does this sounds like mornings in your house? Your nagging eventually leads to yelling. You’re at your wits end and you’re perpetually late.
There is hope, though. This can be more manageable and your children can be more independent. You all just need a better morning routine.
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Routines are Powerful for Children
As a teacher, I’d spend most of September teaching my students our classroom routines. Teachers know working on having a solid routines means more time for instruction down the road.
It’s the same at home. Routines are the key to efficiency. When children know what to do next and have internalized it, everything flows better at home. You save time when you’re not constantly barking orders.
Another reason that routines are powerful is they make children feel secure. The predictability reduces anxiety and stress for children. Instead of living in fear and chaos, they gain trust things will happen in a manageable way. This also increases their confidence.
Similarly, routines build independence and self-assurance. When children are able to take care of small chores like making their bed and self-care like brushing teeth, they grow to believe they are capable.
Next, routines are powerful because they free up mental bandwidth for bigger challenges. For our children who struggle with big feelings, having routines for daily tasks reduces the demands on their self-control. Thus, routines allows them to direct all their brain power towards developing frustration tolerance or problem solving skills because they aren’t struggling to recall what comes next.
Last, routines are so powerful for developing creativity. Routines get a bad reputation for inhibiting spontaneity but in truth, routines reduce decision fatigue. Instead of using mental energy figuring out what to do next, routines allow our brain the capacity to think freely. When a child’s brain can go on autopilot for routine tasks like getting ready for school, other areas of their brain can be at work for imagination.
Routines are powerful for children.
Routines can Playful for Families
Routines don’t limit creativity. Instead they make room for it. Fun things can (and should) be included in routines. As your children become more independent, you will find pockets of extra time to read aloud, teach your child knock-knock jokes, or have a High-Low conversation.
You can include in your morning routine fun tasks like listening to music while brushing teeth or listening to a chapter of an audio book during breakfast.
You can set aside time to play once all the task are done. In our family, when my daughter is ready before the bus comes, she can have a fun minutes to play Legos or build with blocks. We also have time built into the morning routine for her to watch a PBS Kids show which is her reinforcement for staying in her bed all night.
Routines make family life less stressful. And when you are less stressed, you will be in a more fun mood. You will be better able to enjoy all the silliness that comes with raising young children.
Similarly, with a solid morning, you’ll be less hurried when it’s time to say goodbye. Thus you will be able to make a meaningful connection with your child at school drop-off time.
Use a Morning Routine Visual Schedule at Home
While it is critical to have a morning routine, it’s equally important to have a visual that displays the routine. Visuals, or pictures, remove the demands of language for your child. The brain processes visuals much more easily than spoken language.
Using a morning routine visual also allows your child to be independent. Having the routine is the first step, but having a tool that shows them the routine is essential.
Last, using a morning routine visual schedule can improve your relationship with your child. You can let the chart give the instructions; the chart will freeing you from nagging.
My Child Knows What to Do but is Just Stubborn
When I was teaching, I’d frequently hear parents’ concern that their child wasn’t as independent at home as their child was at school. When I’d suggest using visuals, a lot of parents were resistant to the idea because they felt their child should already be independent.
This is really reinforced with our society: “He knows what to do, he’s just stubborn.”
Your child might know what to do on some level but if he or she isn’t doing it independently, it’s better to assume lack of skill over lack of will.
Plus you use visuals all the time – your calendar, to do lists, apps of reminder on your phone. Our brain can only remember so much. It’s even harder for children.
You know how frustrating it is when you’re at the grocery store and you know you are out of something but just can’t remember what it is. It is aggravating to be at a party and spot an acquaintance but you can’t remember their name. You think to yourself, “I should know this!”
Think about how much mental energy you use trying to recall the forgotten item or the person’s name. It’s no different for your child. Yes, your child probably knows they need to do something next but it might not be easy for them to recall. So let’s make it easy.
Printable Morning Routine for Home
You can also grab one of these acrylic frames at the Dollar Tree. This one was 8×10″ but you can either trim the printable like me or get some 8.5×11″ frames on Amazon.
Get washable dry erase markers (you’ll thank me when it washes right out in the laundry) and plan to spend the next three or four weeks teaching your children the routine in the morning. Show them how to mark off the tasks as they complete them.
Then start backing off. Say: “check your chart.” Praise all independence. Watch them shine.
And enjoy leisurely drinking your coffee.