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Back-to-school season is upon us, and those chaotic and stressful mornings are making a comeback. The mad dash to school, the moody kids who just can't find their shoes, and the uneaten pancakes and waffles – I feel your pain! But guess what? It doesn't always have to be this way. There's a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm here to guide you through it. So, let's dive in and learn how to master the mornings, shall we?

How To Master the Mornings

Rushing around like a headless chicken, trying to convince your little ones that brushing their teeth isn't a form of medieval torture, and witnessing mini meltdowns over misplaced homework – we've all been there, haven't we? But guess what? It doesn't have to stay this way.

Imagine a world where your kids leave the house refreshed, well-fed, and oh-so-calm. A world where you can drive to school at a reasonable speed without feeling like you're in a race against time. It's not a distant dream; it's totally possible. And the key to unlocking this morning magic? Preparation and planning. In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." Those words hit home, don't they?

Many of us have fallen into the routine of chaotic mornings, but this year presents an opportunity for change. This guide is your compass, your roadmap to crafting the ultimate morning routine. It's time to bid farewell to morning madness and say hello to smooth sailing. Ready to dive in?

Maximize the Night-Before's

Morning routines don't start in the mornings. I know that makes almost no sense - but hear me out: How we start the mornings dictate the rest of the day. So a pretty big deal. But, why don't we spend much time preparing for that pivotal first hour.

Perhaps that's why parents spend 10 hours a week (the equivalent of an extra work day) getting their kids ready in the mornings.

Instead of waking up and immediately diving into firefighting mode, let's switch things up. Let's make a pact to have weekly planning powwows every Sunday night. Or heck, why not even weeknights? These bite-sized meetings won't take up much of your time, but they'll shower you with time-saving benefits all week long.

Now, here's the nitty-gritty of what you need to do:

Meal Planning:

How many of your children go to school each day with a hearty breakfast? To be honest with you, not all my kids do either. Oftentimes, it's a result of a lack of nutritious and delicious options. When we're in panic mode, it's hard to ensure your kids are being adequately fed. So while step one is to give yourself more time in the morning, step 2 is to lay out a meal plan each week. Take that calendar from the car dealership and mark it up with each day's meals. Try and prepare easy-to-make and ready-to-go recipes, like overnight oats or chia pudding. With delicious, instant meals on the table, there's no reason your kids can't start the day well-fed.

Daily Checklists:

When there's so much going on, it's easy to forget the ballet dress or soccer cleats. As part of each planning session, prepare checklists for the week or day ahead. Afterward, write down these lists and stick them to their bedroom doors - ensuring they can't miss them.

Events and To-Dos:

There's nothing worse than finding out about Sally's surprise show-and-tell session 5 minutes before you leave for school. During your Sunday sessions, jot down every event in your family's life. From the parent-teacher conference to Johnny's baseball game, don't leave any event unnoted. (Refer back to our recent issue on utilizing calendars for more on this topic)

Make sure to involve your kids in this process - when they're a part of the planning, they feel more responsibility and are more likely to help out.

Be the Change You Want to See

Actions always speak louder than words. Your kids will never change if they see you skipping breakfast, hastily brushing your teeth, and rushing your way to school. But if they see you calmly enjoying your coffee and actually relishing breakfast, they'll be inspired to do the same. (perhaps not the coffee part).

So, after establishing your weekly Sunday meetings, make sure to prioritize optimizing your morning routines first.

Set an alarm to wrap up work each night, power down your phone an hour before bed (to enhance your REM sleep), and select your outfits ahead of time. Identify distractions and take measures to eliminate them - refine your mornings before you anticipate your kids to refine theirs.

Embrace the Failures

As parents, we often compensate for our children's mistakes (like driving 100mph to deliver Abigail's science-fair project that she left on the kitchen counter or leaving a work meeting to bring Sam his lunch). Whether we intend to or not, these habits end up creating kids that never have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Every moment where we come to the rescue deprives our kids of a crucial learning experience. The same holds true for morning routines.

A few years ago, my son forgot his violin on the way to Orchestra practice. We arrived just on time - and there was no way we could make it back in time. There was nothing my son wanted more than to go home. But, I made a deliberate choice for us to go in together, without the violin.

The rest of the parents made an audible gasp when he took his seat without an instrument; the conductor even commented on how rare it was for such a sight. Through that experience, my son never forgot his instrument again. And I believe it taught him to be the organized person he is today. By no means am I a disciplinarian (those of you who've been here for a while can attest to that).

But, I don't believe in over-coddling our kids. Next time they forget to bring their show-and-tell item, let them experience the disappointment. Mention that the incident could have been avoided had they left a checklist on their bedroom door or a reminder on their phone.

Maybe they woke up late that day, causing them to rush out the door distracted. Through negative reinforcement, their developing brains will adapt, forming habits to prevent such emotional experiences in the future. Sooner or later, these moments will craft resilient, organized, and responsible kids.

Wrapping it up...

Imagine calm and happy kids savoring breakfast, grabbing their stuff without a fuss, and heading to school with a smile. No more mad dashes, no more stress. And hey, remember – the first 5 minutes of the day can set the tone for the rest of it. So why not make those minutes amazing?

What did you think of this week's article? Have a strategy that's worked well for your family?

Comment down below and let me know!

Here's to peaceful mornings, well-fed kiddos, and a happier you. You've got this!

- Sylvia