Family Life Skill #2: How to Have Stress Free Mornings

I have two kids, ages 7 and 11, and over the years our mornings have become increasingly stressful. It’s a challenge getting the kids out of bed, ready for school, and out the door.

I’ve developed a routine that is working really well for my family. I’ve also shared this routine with other families, and they’ve reported great success. Perhaps it can help your family too.

The routine is simple, but has many subtle elements which are detailed in the sections below. We created the Mobido app to help with this morning routine, as well as other challenges raising children. If you have an Apple phone or tablet we’d love for you to try the app and let us know how it works for you.

Here’s my morning routine:

  • 7:00am – 15 minutes of slow waking up while bonding with the kids
  • 7:15 to 7:45 – Kids get themselves ready for school (while I relax with a cup of tea and talk to my wife)
  • 7:45 to 8:05 – Breakfast
  • 8:05 to 8:15 – Make our way to the front door
  • 8:15 – Out the door on on our way to school

7:00am – 15 minutes of slow waking up while bonding with the kids

Child psychologists recommend connection and bonding as an effective tool for getting your kids to cooperate with you. We start our day not with a jarring order to get out of bed, but instead with some cues that it’s time to get up, and by showing our affection. Here are the details:

  • A happy alarm sound at 7:00am – Our current sound is a chicken crowing provided by the Mobido app. This is not a signal to get up, but just that the day is starting.
  • Soft lights on at 7:00am – We don’t want to jar them, so we start with a soft light.
  • Affection first – Our first interaction is a hug and saying we love them, then more hugging. Sometimes they are already awake and want to talk and hug more, but many times they are still very groggy. There’s plenty of time, so we just keep hugging them.
  • Lights on at 7:05 – This helps them to start waking up, but it’s still not jarring because they get a chance to rest more in bed and keep hugging us.
  • Ask about their dreams – Dreams are how we work through problems, and the kids dreams will be fresh. Take this opportunity to understand anything that your child is struggling with, or, in the case of positive dreams, learn what your child is excited to do.
  • Second chicken chorus at 7:10 – Still no rush, so continue bonding. Remind them they have five more minutes.
  • Bugles go off at 7:15 (courtesy of the Mobido app) – We hand the kids their iPhone (for 11 year old) and iPod (for 7 year old) and ask them to start doing their morning chores to get ready for school

7:15 to 7:45 – Kids get themselves ready for school

In the past I’d dress the kids, put the backpacks by the front door, make sure all the little items were ready: shoes, socks, jackets, etc. But this style of helicopter parenting was robbing my kids of the opportunity to become independent.

I tried using paper checklists in the mornings, and even other to-do apps, but kids are complicated and they need several reward systems interleaved together. Some kids also need a series of reminders in the morning. If you, the parent, had to do this nagging it would probably stress you out. So we leverage the Mobido app to help manage the kids.

Here’s the chore list for my younger daughter:

  • Make bed
  • Daytime clothes
  • Comb hair
  • Front door – lunchbox
  • Front door – socks
  • Front door – jacket
  • Front door – shoes
  • Front door – hat
  • Front door – backpack
  • Drink water

Here’s where the Mobido app shines: The checklist is part of a chat with the parent, just like texting, or Facebook messenger. Except there’s also the list of things to do right at the top of the chat. Each time the kid taps a checkbox to say they’ve done a task, the parent is notified with a sound (we use the applause sound) and a short text message of what they did. This way, I can know how the chores are coming along without even looking at my phone – the ambient sound in the house tells me how things are going.

And what if the kids aren’t doing chores?The Mobido app makes a subtle noise every few minutes to remind them when no chores are being accomplished. This same sound is also present on the parent’s phone.

7:45 to 8:05 – Breakfast

The Mobido app provides a number of warning sounds before 7:45 so the kids know to hurry up and finish any chores they want credit for. At 7:45 sharp I take away their tablets and phones, and have them sit down for breakfast. This gives them 20 distraction free minutes to figure out what they want to eat, and to have a non-rushed breakfast.

This is the important part: It’s ok if you kids haven’t completed their tasks. You have the 20 minutes they are eating breakfast to finish up any chores they haven’t done. In my house, it realistically takes 3 to 4 minutes to get all their stuff together, so we have plenty of time. It’s also important not to discipline your children for any incomplete chores. Breakfast should be a positive experience before the whole family launches into their day.

Mobido allows you to reward your kids for doing chores. Trust in your reward system. If you reward system is not working, then change it. And keep on changing it until you find rewards that work. In my house we tie chores to a cash allowance. But many other families use point systems which allow their kids to earn towards goals. Be creative here. Talk to other parents. Talk to your kids to see what they want, and then work that into the rewards.

8:05 to 8:15 – Make our way to the front door

I give the kids a full ten minutes to navigate the forty feet from the breakfast table to the front door and put their shoes on. And every morning it takes just about that long, but at least no one is getting upset.

8:15 – Out the door on on our way to school

By 8:15 we are happily out the front door and on our way to arrive on-time at school.

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