I am not a morning person. I am a late night Netflix binge person and a hit the snooze button five times person, but not a morning person (see my snooze alarm schedule below for proof).
Those of you without kids may not know this, but children tend to not care at all whether you’re a morning person or not. They need you bright and early to dress them, find their backpacks, make their breakfasts, listen to their dreams, brush their teeth, and take them to school prepared and on time.
On the mornings I wake up late and scramble to get myself plus three small humans ready, our house is sixty minutes of pure and utter chaos. We spend our first hour of the day together stressed out, angry, frantic, and rushed. Then, we go off to work and school continuing to feel out of sorts. It’s a terrible way to start the day, and it often sets the tone for the rest of the day go to terribly as well.
In order to solve this problem once and for all, I incorporated five simple rules into our morning routine that enable us to keep calm and stay on task before school. My family and I now share more enjoyable mornings together and much fewer frenzied races out the door. If you are in need of a morning routine tune-up try following these 5 Rules to Starting the Morning Off Right.
Rule 1: A Good Morning Starts With a Good Night
Enjoying a stress-free morning means getting as much done as you can the night before to help your kids be more prepared for a successful school day. For example:
- Lay out your kids’ complete head-to-toe outfits: jackets, shirts, shorts, undies, socks, shoes.
- Check and pack homework and backpacks, and have them ready to go by the door.
- Set lunchboxes out in the kitchen, and pack up any items that will stay fresh overnight (i.e. granola bars, fruit snacks, chips) Fill and refrigerate water bottles as well. And since you’ll be feeling like SuperParent, write your kids a note to go in their lunches.
Moms (and dads), you are not exempt from this rule. Take the time the night before to help keep your morning to-do list as short as possible:
- Lay out your clothes, iron if necessary, and stick to your outfit choice in the morning. (Own it!)
- Pack gym bag, briefcase, purse, computers (and chargers!) and put by them by the door.
- Make breakfast and set your coffeemaker. For some delicious and healthy overnight ideas try these amazing recipes for Apple Pie Overnight Refrigerator Oatmeal or Scrambled Egg Breakfast Muffins. You can also find many varieties of these recipes on Pinterest.
- Make a morning to-do list. I find that if I write down the night before what I wish to accomplish in the morning, I am more likely to stay on task and less likely to forget something. (Plus, it is weirdly satisfying crossing items off your list.)
- Go to bed. Turn off electronic devices thirty minutes before bedtime so you are less likely to waste precious sleep time playing games or texting.
Rule 2: Wake Up With A Grateful Heart
Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Each morning when you wake up, think only three things; Thank you, thank you, and thank you.” Imagine waking up feeling blessed for the things you get to do, rather than burdened with the things you have to do. Having an attitude of gratitude can be as simple as taking a few minutes each morning to lay in bed and come up with reasons to be grateful for the day you’re about to have.
I strongly encourage not glazing over this rule. There has been no greater impact on my emotional well-being, (especially in the morning) than this practice. I can assure you a few minutes each morning will go a long way in setting a calm emotional state for you and your children.
If you’re looking for a formal approach to waking up with gratitude try one of the following:
- Make a “Top Ten Gratitude” List — Write down ten tasks you find yourself frustrated with as a mom (i.e. dirty laundry). Take each item and transform it into a source of gratitude. “I am grateful for laundry, because it means my family has clothes to wear.” See my list below as an example.
- Start a Gratitude Journal — In this journal, acknowledge things about your kids that aggravate you or are a point of frustration: “I hate that my five-year-old cries for no reason.” Instead of seeing this as a character flaw or bad behavior, change the way you perceive it: “My daughter is learning how to express her emotions, and I am in awe of how intensely she feels the tiniest of these emotions.” Continue to add to your journal as you find yourself getting short-tempered with certain behaviors. When you wake up, read your journal and you will find yourself grateful and more patient with your children.
- The 6 Phase Meditation, by Vishen Lakhiani — This 21-minute guided meditation can be downloaded from the free app Omvana. Each phase focuses on a different aspect of spiritual and emotional well-being, one of which is gratitude. It will help you explore and identify three things in your personal life, in your professional life, and in yourself that you feel grateful for.
Rule 3: No Technology Before School
This one is simple to understand, but difficult to stick to. Your morning only runs smoothly if everyone stays on task, and we all know there is no greater distraction to kids and parents than electronics. I have spent many mornings in bed scrolling through Facebook wasting precious time I could have used to get ready in a peaceful state of mind.
Here are a couple simple ways to eliminate electronics from your morning routine:
- Out of sight, out of mind. As soon as you turn off your alarm, put your phone in your car. This way you won’t be tempted to peek at it, check Twitter, or text until you are ready and out the door.
- No TV, iPads, or videogames for the kids. Be sure to have something prepared for kids to do when they are completely ready for school: read, color, play cards, practice scissor cuts, give them a journal topic to write about, etc. Save devices for weekend mornings, when laziness is acceptable and encouraged.
Rule 4: Take Care of Yourself First
I know this is a foreign concept, since you spend every waking moment putting your kids first but, I want you to put yourself first. When you wake, do what’s important to you. If you want to work out, walk, jog, stretch, meditate, or do yoga, wake up early and do it first. Leave enough time for you to shower, get dressed, do your hair and make-up before you have to tend to any of your children’s needs.
Do not multi-task your needs with your children’s, because you will never win that battle. Waking up earlier ensures that you get to complete every one of your needs as efficiently as possible.
Rule 5: Routine, Routine, Routine
A well-established morning routine will lead to fewer early morning battles with your strong-willed little ones. I used to make some pretty rookie mistakes early on like asking, “Do you want to eat first or get dressed first?” Nope, don’t do it. In our house the routine is as follows:
- Make beds
- Use restroom
- Get dressed
- Do hair
- Eat breakfast
- Brush teeth
- Clean room
- Ready early? Read, draw, journal, or play cards
- Grab lunch and backpack
Now that my kids know the routine, the reminders to make their beds or brush their teeth are much less frequent, which allows me to keep my cool.
Enjoy the New Calm by Having Fun
Having a morning routine doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! There are so many cute and creative charts on Pinterest that kids can use as a self-motivating tool to stay on task in the morning. Allow your kids to take on as many of the morning responsibilities as they are ready for. Let them dress themselves and teach them to tie their shoes, pour their own cereal and milk, and clear their breakfast plates. Trust me, if they figure out how to work AppleTV, they can figure out how to open a dishwasher.
Remember, a good morning sets the tone for a good day. And if watching Pixar’s Inside Out fifty times has taught me anything it’s, we need to “have a good day, which will turn into a good week, which will turn into a good year, which will turn into a good life.” Best of luck to you on your morning routines!