Yes, I’m saying it with confidence. I cracked the code. I hacked the seemingly unhackable! I’ve successfully managed to get the kids to school in the mornings without severe emotional scarring, for several days in a row! And we’ve been using this method for a couple of months now. This mom hacked the morning routine!
Well… I admit that it hasn’t been without some stumbles and trips along the way. I mean, the little people (and mom) are still human and sometimes those little humans are just intensely morning-averse. What can you do? You can drink more coffee…
Just the other morning we got to school and realised that Blake (7) left his mask at home. I blame the pandemic for making me drive all the way home to fetch it and all the way back to school again. I was not amused. But these things happen, right?
Another morning, Wade (who is 11 and an astonishing combination of heart, ADHD, forgetfulness and perseverance) remembered at 6 am that he had unfinished homework and threw out our entire carefully crafted schedule. Little brother woke up and saw all this sitting at the table and promptly decided that the morning routine is cancelled. And let me tell you, once he’s made up his mind, it’s like trying to drag a mule up a mountain. I need to dunk my head in a bucket full of essential oils to restore my zen after a morning like that!
Don’t sweat the small stuff
So, okay. I’ve hacked the morning routine probably 80% of the time. I’m still taking it as a win!
How did I achieve this phenomenal feat? First, let me not take all the credit. This was, and is, a team effort that took some very clever coaching.
Second, I’ll explain how we got to this point. It’s a long and painful history. I’m sure that if you have little kids going to school, you feel my pain. For at least seven years, there’s been yelling, tantrums, crying, desperate pleading and blind panic… and I won’t even get started on the boys! That’s just the emotional state that I’ve started most of my days with. Not cute.
The internet tells you that these tips will make your morning routine a breeze.
SuperDad gave up on this mess a long time ago after he implemented all the advice on the internet. Because you know, I’ve searched and searched the whole web and never found real, workable advice other than practical strategies like these:
- Make a checklist – Tried. Lasted all of two days. Fail.
- Set out school clothes the night before – We do this daily. Success.
- Star charts and similar rewards systems. “I don’t care, I don’t want a star anymore!”. Epic fail.
- Prepare lunches the night before – Dad makes these at 5 am and preps everything for breakfast before making a speedy escape and get to work early. Success.
- Create a peaceful and serene bla bla bla…. Pffffffffsh!
- Place school bags and other necessary items near the door, ready to pick up and go – Done every day. Success.
- No screens in the morning. This is a firm rule. Success.
Toothbrush baskets, wake up before the kids, we tried all these things and we’ve stuck to some of them for years. Yes, I’m totally sure that they help enormously, but even when we already had all those things in place, they still didn’t make the little people actually cooperate by moving their limbs! It’s either exceptional slothdom or an impromptu wrestling match breaks out or suddenly this book looks really interesting or, or or……
One of the worst mornings ever
I wrote a post about one of our worst mornings ever a couple of years ago, when Blake bolted out of the house in nothing but socks on a bitterly cold winter’s morning. I promise you it will make you feel better about your own mornings! Anyway, since then, it became my life’s mission to hack this damn morning routine. Lockdown in 2020 obviously changed things for a couple of months but my kids started school again in June and I refused to have the chaos return!
Here’s what worked for me
I decided to give the boys some sense of control over the situation. Wade’s a bit older now and sometimes loses track of time or forgets things but he’s generally not the worst. Little Mister-Not-So-Sunshine Blake was the primary protagonist in this daily performance. Therefore, I needed him to play his role in Le Grande Hack.
- I involved him in designing our new schedule. He knew what needed to happen in the mornings and he could decide the order of things. For example, would he get dressed first or have breakfast first?
- I employed his favourite thing. Juice! Because the physical waking up and moving the body bit is the biggest challenge, I need to give it a swift kick in the duvet. I wake him up with a cold glass of fruit juice (mixed with some water) to get him going. Most of the time it puts a smile on his face and gives him a little energy boost.
- I added a fuss-free fun element. We need the little people to grasp the concept of time and visibly track it in the simplest way possible. The boys love a timer! It’s kid against clock, kid can see time counting down, kid is excited and forgets to mess around with other stuff. I set the timer on my phone, put it where they can see it and off they go.
- I let them set the time they need. They decided how much time they would need to get ready. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and cleaning faces etc. They decided on: 15 minutes to get dressed, 15 minutes to eat and 5 minutes to wash up. Then we drink vitamins, feed the dog, grab our stuff and go.
- In a motivational emergency, I pull out the big guns! When the mule just doesn’t have the will to move, each of them chooses a get-ready song to play. Instant game changer, my friends.
Keep it simple, stupid! My recipe for almost everything.
And that’s really that. It’s uncomplicated and easy enough to be totally effective and to become a real habit that sticks. Having had my share of failed experiments, I wondered whether this plan was going to make it past the first half of the week. But it totally did!
I include a few minutes on either side for random things like something we’ve forgotten or uncooperative socks, but on the whole I know that we can be out of the house and still smiling in about 45 minutes. Winning!
If you’ve ever been in the pits of desperation, crying in your car with every last nerve frazzled, I hope this will help you and your little sloth-monsters. 80 percent less morning trauma is pretty good going and can make a huge difference to everyone’s day. You can happily send them off with a quick cuddle and a love and go and rock your day!
Let me know what a typical school morning looks like in your home! Have you got any tricks up your pyjama sleeve that have made your mornings blissful? Drop a comment below and I would love it if you would share this with all the parents who could use a few tips, or even just a smile, knowing that we’re not alone.