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Tuesdays with Jane: Avoiding those Morning Battles!

If getting your children out the door to school and yourselves out the door to work results in everyone’s day starting on a sour note, structure may be your answer. One of the clearest universal truths in the psychology of parenting is that children thrive when expectations are clear. And mornings are a good place to begin.

You’re not a structured person yourself? Rather than trying a regimen that would impress the Captain in The Sound of Music, let’s think in terms of the bare minimum that can make mornings more peaceful—surely a goal worthy of a few rules!

  1. Set a Consequence. Children learn responsibility best when consequences are clear. However, make sure it is one on which you can and will follow through. When our children attended a magnet school, missing the bus that stopped at the end of our street meant a 30-mile round-trip commute through rush-hour traffic. Our consequence? If they missed it, Mom home-schooled them for the day. And the classes would be tough. No television. No internet. Not once did they miss that bus.
  2.  Share the Alarm Responsibility. Young children actually think alarm clocks are cool. Get them one and put them in charge of getting themselves out of bed. Six-year-olds can do this if they are given the responsibility—how do you think our ancestors gathered eggs and pumped water? If you have older children and are still waking them up, have a serious talk about turning over to them this task that precedes receiving the car keys. Have a consequence for ignoring the alarm—and ask them what it should be. They’re often tougher than you would be. Again, though, make sure it is a consequence on which you can follow through. Also, make sure that you set your own alarm/listen for their door to open/somehow share this responsibility until this routine is working smoothly.
  3.  Plan Backward. People who dislike structure often underestimate how long things will take, as well as the number of things that might go wrong! For a week (you can do this for a week, maybe even during the commercials of your favorite show!), write out the things that need to be done in the morning. Estimate how long each will take. Add up the times and use that estimate to determine how early you really have to get up to get out the door at the ideal time. Each night, revisit those estimates. Were they realistic? Then plan the next morning.

One family realized that much of the morning rush went to things that could be done the night before. With the shared goal of happy mornings, they learned to get just enough more organized that rushing to find homework or clean clothes really did become things of the past. The mom, though, drew the line when the children asked if they could sleep in their school clothes to save time in the morning!

Just think, with a little planning, you might even get to enjoy that morning cup of coffee!

Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is