Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Tips to Streamline Back-to-School Mornings

Just in time for the back-to-school season, I’m so happy to introduce guest poster Karen Farrell, a project management consultant by trade and mother of three young children who has a healthy obsession for process improvement – at work and at home. She joins us for a special series on parenting with smart, practical tips to make some of the more challenging aspects of parenting easier and simpler.

1. Establish a Morning Timeline


That’s right – not a routine… a timeline.   A specific timeline ensures that they complete the routine in time to be ON TIME!

The key here is to be specific – you know, those tasks that you yell in your child’s face 10 times each morning. (Brush your teeth! Put on your shoes!)  The first step is to work backwards from your departure time.  Then layout the routine to a timeline that will allow your child to be successful.   If you know your child takes extra time to wake-up , then build in the 10 minutes to snooze.   See my own timeline in the picture as an example.
I found that once I established this timeline during a family meeting, put it in writing and posted it, even my scatter-brained 5-year old was successful.   

 Brothers learned to race each other and a strong motivation was the reward to turn on a TV show or play a little, if all was done.  I also found a hidden treasure in my older son (who could read) helping my younger son know what to do – they established a bond over getting ready.  That made my morning not just smooth, but soul-satisfying.

2. Get the Kids an Alarm Clock 


Remove yourself from the unpleasant job of waking the kids up and entering the inevitable cycle of “Do I have to? Yes! But I don’t want to!” There is a better way:  let the alarm clock do the waking.   A few tips here:  Let your child pick out the music to wake to by using CDs or iPod alarm clocks.  It is always a better morning when you wake to favorite music.  

If your child likes to wake slowly, set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier than they need to be up and let them have the power to “snooze.”  Again, the alarm clock does all the work and gets you out of the line of fire.

3. Prep for Tomorrow’s Activities


Review your calendar for the line-up of the next day’s activities the night before
 - Pack a lunch or purchased?   Practices?  Tutors? Play dates?
Pull together any uniforms, sporting equipment, instruments, etc. that will be needed.  Nothing is worse, and causes more yelling than not being able to find the baseball mitt minutes before you are supposed to leave.

You can include your older child in this activity, even making it one of their chores, lessening your load and making them responsible for their own activities.   It also helps get them ready and prepare their mindset for the next day – whether excitement over an afterschool play date or knowing not to ask for one because of scheduled piano practice.

4. Use the Night Before to Get Out the Door

Don’t leave it for the morning rush – assemble and pack as much of snacks and lunches as possible and fill water bottles the night before.   Help your child pick out clothes to wear and put them in a designated spot – including socks & shoes.

Tired parents look forward to kids in bed as a time to unwind, but take the extra 10 minutes to do these activities and your morning will be smoother, and likely you will be able to relax easier at night knowing it is done.

5. Get YOURSELF Ready


Be dressed and ready for breakfast yourself *before* your children rise.

As a mother, it can feel like all your energy is put towards doing for others.  Take time to get yourself awake and ready (dressed – and maybe even showered!) before your children wake.   I think we can all agree that it’s an indulgence to dry your hair uninterrupted.

 Feeling ready to attack the day will rub off on your kids – if you are grumpy in the morning and rushing around, chances are grumpy and rushed is what you will receive in return. 


  1. So this is how you've been managing with three kids! As always, much appreciated good advice. P.S. I miss you!

  2. Thanks, Joanna! Miss you too, but glad to talk to you here. Thanks for reading!