Fighting the Morning Routine

I’ll admit it! I’m perpetually late for lots of things! Dropping the kids off at school on time proves to be my family's biggest challenge! Though it’s often only a 3- to 10-minute delay,  it’s still not a great example for my children. Their school sends a letter when a child has 6 or more "tardies" in a month. We received three this school year!

Enough said.

Personally, I’m not proud of this situation, but it always seems like someone has to use the toilet as soon as we need to leave the house.

Every. Single. Morning. 

That’s not something you can build-in time for, because you know—when you gotta go, you gotta go!

My kids (8, 5, and 2 1/2) and I often talk about the many details we need to work on: like delays in brushing of teeth, requests for more breakfast as we are walking out the door, not being fully dressed with shoes on in time—the list goes on and on. Even with two weeks left of school, we are still working on these "little issues" daily. No matter how many children you have, the morning routine is downright hard.

Being on time in the morning requires a mix of many different character strengths (sometimes referred to as virtues)—like orderliness, helpfulness, and cheerfulness. I’ve uncovered one tool that tackles all 3! 👇🏽

Hallmarks of orderliness are doing the things one should do, when and how they should be done, which brings about a sense of harmony. In an organized life, you’re not running around crazily looking for your shoes or your car keys, ‘cause you know where your things are when you need them, and time is managed thoughtfully and well. Order in our external environment creates order within us, and an ordered life trickles down to peace of mind. We’re all happier that way!

A big step toward orderliness in my home that greatly helps speed up the morning routine is setting my kids’ clothes out beside their bed and making their lunches the night before. When those two things are in place, the day just starts off on the right foot.

Of course, orderliness is not so easily executed without helpfulness. Helpfulness is being of service to others and doing thoughtful things that make a difference in the lives of others. Even better is when the help is offered without waiting to be asked. Now that’s the initiation we want every member of our family to take!
We all need a little help at times…even us super-moms!

That may mean accepting a child's best effort even though we could do the job better ourselves.

When we help each other, we get more done. This collaboration makes life easier and builds lots of other virtues!

In an effort to teach my kids helpfulness and because there is a learning curve when grasping time management, I use this task list with times filled in for the morning routine. I can refer to it when we are off schedule…pointing out that at 7:25 we need to be brushing our teeth, not asking for more breakfast. When my kids are on task, I can affirm that they are being helpful with our schedule.

Keeping 3 little ones on task every morning can lead to one stressed-out mama! It can be a little challenging to be courteous and kind (the virtue of cheerfulness) with my children when we are running behind yet another time. Yelling isn't constructive, and I catch myself mid-yell, “this is not a great example of cheerfulness—snap out of it!”  It’s not surprising that my 8-year old mirrors my attitude, especially if I've been grumpy and sarcastic.

Starting the morning off right leads to more peaceful and cheerful days. On the way to school, I want my kids to arrive happy, calm, and ready for their day, so I aim for more light and peaceful conversations in the car. Often I'll ask them to share something they are grateful for or to offer their siblings one kind compliment before we say our goodbyes and they exit the car. This trip to school may provide the only “quality” time that I will have to talk with them for the entire day. So, I try not to be on my phone so I can give them my full attention. And I definitely have a no TV rule in our car in the morning. It’s important that children learn how to engage with others, and I feel that the morning ride to school is a wonderful time to practice that.

When you’re looking for ways to improve, find what works best for you! Reflect on the dynamics of your situation and identify what will work and what won't. It helps to make incremental changes with kids until habits are instilled. And I definitely recommend starting with order, with checklists for the kids.

For me, I've learned that orderliness in the morning begins the night before by making lunches and avoiding the TV or staying up late surfing the Internet. I’ve also realized that being cheerful and calm with my kids is a whole lot easier when I wake up 20-30 minutes before my kiddos get out of bed to make sure I’ve started breakfast and gathered any last-minute lunch items before additional unplanned requests begin.

Having written expectations for the kids helps them know what to do and how they can be helpful. If you are lucky enough to have the help of your spouse in the morning, that’s a blessing and can be a great example for your kids as well. By everyone working together, your mornings can go smoother, and everyone will start the day off on the right foot! As order brings peace of mind and harmony to your home, the sunshine of a cheery disposition will brighten your family's life also!

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