Calm & Connected Parenting: Establishing a Morning Routine

Want to know how to take some stress out of the new school year, or just parenting in general? Choose one thing, just ONE thing and work to make it go smoothly. In this case, I am talking about establishing a morning routine.

Here are a few tried and true steps to making that routine go smoothly:

1. Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep.

OK, before we even start looking at the morning routine for kids, we need to address the elephant in the room. It seems obvious and we’ve all heard it before, but the importance of sleep cannot be overstated.

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Here is a handy chart that breaks down how much sleep kids need depending on their age. You can determine your child’s appropriate bedtime by subtracting the number of hours from the time you need to wake them up in order to get out the door in time.

2. Prepare the night before.

Now that everyone is getting enough sleep the next step is to try to minimize the number of responsibilities everyone has in the morning.

  • Prepare breakfast the night before. I’m surprised that more parents don’t already do this! Here are a few awesome resources to get started –

  • Pack lunches. Have you tried bento boxes? Young kids love them and they keep things interesting, not to mention they are relatively easy to prepare.

  • Choose clothes. Let your child choose (from 2 options to keep things simple) or keep a selection of appropriate school clothes at their level so they can quickly choose their outfit in the morning. Involving your child in this decision-making process is a great way to give them a little control over their morning routine.

  • Assign a box/hook/shelf for all of the school essentials so you aren’t searching for backpacks, shoes, lunch boxes etc. each morning.

    • Tip: Assign a place for your briefcase/purse/keys/wallet/phone as well. Some call this a launch pad.

3. Get up before your kids.

This has been a life changer for my husband and me. We set our alarm for at least 30 minutes before the kids need to wake up. We have a few minutes this way to wake up, talk about the day ahead, and over course have some COFFEE!

4. Make a morning routine chart.

If you have younger kids use pictures instead of just words in your morning routine chart and include all of the things that need to get done like:

  • Brushing teeth

  • Combing hair

  • Washing face

  • Getting dressed

  • Eating Breakfast

  • Putting shoes on

  • Grab backpack/lunchbox

  • Head out the door

Once you have picked a morning routine for kids, go through all of the steps with them talking about each step as you go along your morning. This will help you recognize any glitches or perhaps the need to re-order some of the steps.

Throughout the morning routine, encourage your child to take ownership of these tasks and try not to do everything for them. It might be quicker in the short term to put their pants on for them but you will just contribute to a power struggle that you will pay for in time and frustration down the road.

Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.
–Maria Montessori

Here are a few great resources for establishing Montessori inspired morning routine for kids –

5. Put the “When … Then” approach to use.

One of my favorite parenting tools is the “when… then” approach as described by Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions.

A When-Then Routine is a tool to help your kids stay motivated to get everything done in the morning—even the “yucky” stuff like brushing teeth and getting dressed. It structures your morning so that all the not-so-fun tasks are completed before the most desirable part of the morning like breakfast (or morning playtime, TV time, etc.).

Identify one thing that your child loves about morning time and make that thing contingent on them being done with the rest of the things on their morning routine checklist. For example, “when you get dressed, brush your teeth and make your bed, then we have breakfast.”

The “when… then” approach works wonders in our house. It is great because it doesn’t really give the child any other options. You come at it with the attitude that it doesn’t really matter to you either way.

If they want breakfast then they have to do those things first and if they choose not to then they will suffer the natural consequence of being hungry and likely won’t make the same decision the next time.

Just be sure to pick something where you can stay firm and don’t cave, otherwise you will render the “when… then” useless.

6. Remain calm and connected.

I firmly believe that the energy you put out is the energy you receive. Your kids can sense when you are rushed and frantic and they will either be rushed and frantic or will slow down and resist. Neither of those things are helpful when you are trying to get out the door. If you are following all of the tips above you shouldn’t be rushed but things can come up at the last minute.

When you feel yourself becoming frazzled, get down on the same level with your child and explain to them why you need their help in that moment and give them a task to take ownership of.

One trick that we have found especially helpful is to almost whisper when you find yourself getting frustrated. This will help you remember to use a calm voice rather than raising your voice or yelling. And from my teaching days, a whisper really gets attention!

7. Be present on the way to school.

On your way to the bus stop or on the drive to school, make sure to be present. Car rides and walks are absolutely one of the best times to connect with your children. If you’ve had a calm morning, kids will tend to open up and to share their worries, something that excites them, or even a wondering.

Hopefully you will find these steps helpful in creating that calm and connected parenting that you are hoping for. Do you have other morning routine tips? Please let us know in the comments below!