One of the single biggest challenges each day can be getting my kids fed, dressed, and out the door. There are lost shoes and misplaced homework, repeated reminders about brushing teeth, and “I wanted my bagel lightly toasted!” whining all before my first cup of coffee has really kicked in. So I’ve been on a mission to try to streamline our mornings — keep the kids on task without me nagging, get our morning necessities accomplished on-time, and avert potential before-school catastrophes that can derail a perfectly lovely morning. And guess what? I’ve found some things that actually work:
1. The “Morning Five”
I am not crafty in any way, which is why I am so grateful for Pinterest. It’s there that I found my inspiration for our family’s Morning Five (you can see other examples here). The concept is this: You select five key morning activities that your children need to accomplish in the morning and assign one to each finger. I chose some that my boys did pretty effortlessly already (changing out of their PJs and into clothes) and some that I was regularly having to remind them to do (make their beds and brush their teeth). On the weekend, I showed them the Morning Five chart and explained exactly what I expected to be done for each of the “fingers”. We hung the Morning Five chart on the fridge so it was easy to reference if one of the boys forgot. Over the following days and weeks, we started to integrate the chart into our morning routine. The boys still took some reminding, but instead of having to go through a whole list of “Did you remember to’s?”, I could simply ask, “Have you completed your Morning Five?” This one chart cut way down on my nagging, improved my boys’ sense of responsibility, and greatly improved our mornings.
2. DIY breakfast
Early on, I decided I did not want to be a short order cook. Oatmeal for one son, eggs and toast for another, and scrambled eggs for the third? No more. We simplified our mornings by having everyone have one thing and even more, by teaching my oldest two boys how to make our three main breakfast options on their own. It took a little rearranging of bowls so they could easily reach them for cereal and a few weekend practice lessons teaching my oldest how to cook eggs and use the toaster. Now there are no complaints about the toast not being quite right (hard to complain when YOU are the one in charge of toasting it) and often times, when I wake up, my oldest two are already well into their self-made breakfast. They aren’t waiting on me for food or thinking they can “order” what they want to eat, and I don’t need to nag them to come to the table for breakfast.
3. Organized essentials
My boys are not naturally organized. They will throw one shoe here and another there. Leave math homework on the counter and spelling sentences mysteriously under the couch. To prevent the last-minute “Where is my _______??” that can hinder happily getting out the door on time, we’ve set up places for all the key essentials my boys need in the morning. For my family, this included a shoe/sock bin by the front door, a cubby for homework, and hooks for backpacks and sweatshirts. There is still the occasional hunt for something, but if the boys use the system (shoes in the bin after school, finished homework in the cubby, etc.), we have a successful morning without frequent reminders from me or a frantic search for lost necessities.
4. Carrots and sticks
Occasionally when the boys get sloppy on remembering the Morning Five or to put their homework where it belongs, I’ll employ some “carrots” or “sticks”. I don’t keep these in place all the time, but if I notice the boys have been heading out the door without making their beds, I’ll let them know that if the Morning Five aren’t completed by the time we leave in the morning, they’ll be going to bed 10 minutes early that night. With the consequence set, I relieve myself of the need to nag. If the jobs aren’t done, the kids are clear on the consequence. Other times I’ll use a carrot — two marbles in the jar for each kid who completes everything they need to do before we leave. I have the most success (and can maintain a nag-free morning) when I clearly explain my expectations and the consequences/rewards if those expectations aren’t met.
What strategies do you use for a no-nag morning?