One of the best pieces of advice I ever received for getting my then-preschooler out the door in the morning was to create a visual checklist to guide him. I made a clip-art timeline with a toothbrush (brush your teeth), a sweater (get dressed), a bowl of cereal (eat breakfast) and a newspaper (fetch the newspaper from the front porch... I don’t know, he liked to do this).
It gave us simple, consistent directions to reference over and over, and if there was enough time left in the morning after all of his tasks were done, he could watch one show before heading off to preschool.
Turns out this advice works for older kids, too.
After one-too-many morning conflicts with her 12-year-old son, writer Kristen Mae decided to make him a morning checklist on a whiteboard. Then, as she tells Scary Mommy, she got out of his way:
No longer would I float nearby in the mornings with my well-intentioned reminders: “Are your teeth brushed?” “Is your backpack ready?” “Do you have your shoes?”
My son has to mark the items off on the checklist, and he has to pay attention to the time. No more warnings from me about the ticking clock. And if the items on the checklist aren’t done by leaving time, no screen time for that day—no exceptions.
I can relate to Mae’s son, who she says “has always been slow to wake up in the mornings. And, even once he is awake, he’s a bit of a bear until his blood starts circulating.” I, too, was the sort of tween and teen who would have preferred to be awake for a full hour before speaking or being spoken to. (I’m a little better as an adult, but you’ll never mistake me for a morning person.)
The checklist method is a simple way to lay out the expectations, which you can both agree to one evening when everyone is a little more chipper, as well as the consequences for not meeting them.
And then, you can keep the morning conversing—and the nagging and the yelling—to a minimum.