For many parents, making it out of the house in the morning to work and getting the kids to school, the school bus or daycare on time means one thing: madness. It takes an incredible amount of effort for parents to get out on time, with emotions intact. Add some stress and a bit of screaming and the family is thrown into a frenzy before the day even gets into full swing.
But just because parents work doesn't mean priorities like healthy eating and keeping stress levels down have to be pushed aside.
Help is here, with tips on how to at least limit the morning mayhem.
1. Break the Repeat-Remind-Explode Cycle
Let's face it -- it's easy for parents to lose their temper under the pressure of the morning rush. But a strategy called "When-Then Routines" can help, according toAmy McCready, Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of "If I Have to Tell You One More Time...The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.
A When-Then Routine is a tool to help your kids stay motivated to get everything done in the morning-even "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 playtime, TV time, etc.).
You can create your family's When-Then routine, which might sound something like this: "When you're dressed, your hair is combed, the bed is made, and your backpack and lunch box are by the door, then breakfast will be served - but remember, the kitchen closes at 7:45!" If your kids show up to the table in pajamas with their hair a mess, you can smile and calmly say, "When everything in your morning routine is finished, then we'll have breakfast." Then walk away so you're not available for whining or negotiating.
2. Put your Child in Charge of the New Routine
Make it her job - not yours -- to get through the routine on time. Give your child a checklist (in pictures or words) and let her manage it. Kids as young as four can wake up with an alarm clock and do a routine.
Remember, you've structured your When-Then routine to motivate your child to get the yucky stuff done. If she dawdles through the morning routine, she may not have time for breakfast or playtime. But don't worry. She won't starve to death if she misses breakfast, but she will be motivated to get through the routine quickly the next morning. Putting your child in charge of the routine without nagging, reminding and yelling from you will yield much better results and give her a sense of independence and accomplishment.
Tempted to give your kids a reward for getting through the morning routine? Don't, advises McCready. That's like sending your kids a message saying "I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that you would ever be able to get through the morning routine on your own unless I give you a reward/bribe to do it."
3. Fuel Up on Quick and Healthy Breakfast Options
Quick and healthy can be used in the same sentence, according to Aviva Goldfarb, Founder and Founder and CEO of The Six O'Clock Scramble and Blogger for PBS Parents Kitchen Explorers. She and other Scramble subscribers have found these meals fuel their kids' bodies and minds and give parents some peace of mind:
- A sandwich of rice cakes (or a whole wheat bagel or tortilla) with a thick layer of peanut butter, and all-fruit jelly or sliced bananas in the middle
- A bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or a whole grain English muffin with melted Cheddar cheese
- Hard-boiled eggs alone, or diced and mixed with cubed and buttered toast or cheese.
- Yogurt with dry cereal or granola, and/or fruit, or even instant oatmeal mixed in.
- Breakfast smoothies: Store the unblended smoothie (made with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, and juice, or peanut butter, banana, milk and chocolate syrup) in the refrigerator overnight, and blend it in the morning.
4. Keep Your Stress Levels in Check
Remember, studies show that kids pick up on parents' stress, so try to keep yours in check to give them a strong start to the day. If kids pick up on you soaring stress levels, they could head to school feeling sad, worried, frustrated, annoyed or helpless (as discovered in an American Psychological Association study in Nov. 2010).
>> Get tips for solving 7 stressful scenarios
5. Have a Home for Your Things, Too
Parents spend a lot of time designating spots for their children's things like backpacks, shoes and lunchboxes, but critical things they need to get out of the house go missing! Decide on a place to keep your car keys, purse, and papers you need to take to the office - and keep them there.
The night before, grab a post-it and write yourself a note near your coffeepot or purse to grab a snack for yourself, too. You're going to need your energy when you get home at the end of the day and prepare to do it all again tomorrow.