I recently was asked the following question: “How long do you wait for kids to follow through before they get consequences? It’s each of the children's responsibility to make their bed, tidy their bedroom and get dressed before breakfast at 7:30. I try to say encouraging things to get the kids to hurry along by letting them know how much time has passed and how much is left before breakfast — even advertising what's coming for breakfast to motivate them. But when they don't do it, or don't do it on time, I suddenly wonder what I should do. Do they miss breakfast? Do they get to eat breakfast, but get an extra chore because they didn't follow instructions? Do they get to eat breakfast when they finally finish their room, and is that considered following instructions since it isn't within the time frame I gave them?"
I’m sure lots of families can relate to this question! I don't know one person who hasn't been up against the "morning-routine-that-falls-apart" problem — we’ve had it more times than I care to count. Over the years it has been talked about in more family meetings than anything else.
There are many reasons why people don't accomplish their morning routines. The most common is that they don't get up on time. To wake up on time, the family must have a nighttime routine that works. If the night routine works, the morning routine has more of a chance. Whenever we go about trying to fix our morning routine, we always go back to the night routine first and see if everything is working there. If the night routine is not a problem, some people may need to get up earlier to accomplish theirtasks or get things done at night. We often allow time in our night routine to clean our bedrooms, so that we don't have to worry about them in the morning.
The other reason morning routines get messed up is that people get off task. My children love to read. They wake up in the morning and immediately start reading. I often times don't even know they are up yet! If I let them keep reading, they wouldn't ever do their morning routines.
To start things moving in the right direction, I give them a daily vision. I go into their rooms, sit on their beds and tell them how the day is scheduled and when they can have play time if things go well. Then I say, "Well, we better get started. Get dressed, make your bed and clean your room. We will start the day in exactly 30 minutes."
I’ve found my kids often have anxiety about having to work the entire day, which makes them not want to do anything from the start. The short vision chat helps remove that anxiety. It also lets them know there isn't time to waste at this part of the day— the time to play is later.
If you have a child who doesn't stay on task well, spend a few weeks constantly praising them for their small successes. This helps them know that they have what it takes to stay on task. They actually want to stay on task because they get praised for it. Use praise as a teacher when you can.
If someone chooses not to get ready on time, that’s fine. It doesn't hurt you. That’s self-government, and it’s their choice. Start you own day and let them know that they have earned an extra chore and have to finish their morning routine during free time because it’s time to move on with the family's day.
Have them write it down and post it somewhere in the house where you’ll see it all day so you don't forget. If you forget, they’ll think they can play the system at home to get out of things, which teaches them dishonest behaviors.
We still struggle with our morning routine, and it doesn’t always work. We’re constantly recommitting as a family to being better at this time of day. Don't let one bad morning ruin the spirit in your home. Just keep moving forward! The relationships in the family are more important than if the beds are made on time.