Resources / For families

Morning Madness: How to put the “good” back in “good morning”

parent giving their child a high-five
Brightline Logo Mark Orange
Brightline team

Jun 3, 2024

POV: You wake up. Maybe you’re recharged after hours of sleep, maybe you’re bleary-eyed after nursing, changing, cleaning, or worrying off and on all night. Either way, for the next two hours, you break up arguments, make breakfast nobody eats, clean up after people and pets, and say “please brush your teeth/find your shoes/no electronics before school” 100 times (or more). 

Meanwhile, your coffee is cold, you’ve cried twice, and the clock is ticking. By the time you get your kids off to school or daycare (late again, of course) all you want to do is crawl back under the covers.

And? It’s only 8am.

If this sounds familiar, we’re here to tell you two things: 1) You’re not alone, and 2) We have some ideas that can help put the “good” back in “good morning”.

Depending on the age, stage, and ability of your kids, how much they help will vary. But with some up-front effort on your part, you’ll be able to let go a bit, your kids will start to own pieces of the process, and the routine that works best for your family will emerge. 

Let’s start with this truth: Some days your plan is going to work great. Sometimes it won’t. Being flexible is one key to your success.

IDEA #1: Lower your expectations, raise the vibrations

Start by taking a close look at your own expectations — both for yourself and for your child. Is the bar set too high? What are the non-negotiables and where can you soften a bit? What can you let go of altogether?

Use getting dressed as an example. Appearances can be a struggle. As a parent, you want your child to put their best foot forward, build self-esteem, and avoid negative attention from other kids. And yes, wearing clothes and shoes to school is mandatory. You work (and plan, and budget, and shop) to find clothes that look nice. But sometimes, the turtleneck, last year’s shorts, and mismatched rain boots they insist on wearing instead will do just fine. 

By letting go of the picture you had in mind, you’re giving your child autonomy, which boosts their independence and brings a lighter, “no stress about getting dressed” vibe to the process. 

Try to focus on what your child really needs (as opposed to what you want), opt out of the comparison game, and remember today is a mere blip in a long line of amazing, well-dressed days to come.

IDEA #2: Busier evenings = easier mornings A little prep at night will go a long way towards smoothing out your morning. Adding tasks at the end of a long day takes discipline, but you’ll find your groove. And starting your day grateful that you already have less to do is a win.

Here are some things that you and/or your kids can do at night instead of during the morning rush:

  1. Lay out two outfits for your child to choose from (even if they end up going with the mismatched rain boots, you’ve got somewhere to start).

  2. Plug school electronics into an outlet close to the front door so they are charged and ready to slip into their backpack in the morning.

  3. Pack homework, snacks, and gym clothes in their backpack and set it near the front door (near the charging computer!).

  4. Ask your child if you need to sign any papers or permission slips for the next day.

  5. Prep tomorrow’s lunch — fruit, veggies, chips, and drinks can all be in the lunch bag or refrigerator tonight. In the morning, put together a sandwich or leftovers and you’re set.

  6. Shower/bath — getting cleaned up at night helps relax the body for sleep and saves time in the morning.

IDEA #3: Flexible mindsets and back-up plans

Of course, some things just need to happen, period. But you might be surprised where you can find some wiggle room. Where it makes sense, try to release a rigid mindset and adopt a flexible one instead. 

Here’s a sample situation: Food is important. You expect your child to be ready to sit down at the table at 7:15am and focus on eating their scrambled eggs while they’re hot.

  • Here’s what might happen with a rigid mindset: Your child would rather play with the dog than eat. Frustrated, you spend ten minutes explaining why they have to eat what you made, at the table, right now. Approximately zero bites are taken. Finally, you wind up yelling something about the price of groceries, they go to school hungry, and you both start the day upset. 

  • Here’s what might happen with a flexible mindset: Your child (who just yesterday loved scrambled eggs) declares this breakfast “too spicy” and asks for a peanut butter sandwich instead. You make one in 30 seconds, give the eggs to the dog, and leave the house on time. 

  • Here’s a back-up plan: Your child refuses every breakfast option, but it’s time to go. They buckle their seat belt, and immediately tell you they’re starving. Save the day by keeping a small stash of easy-to-eat favorites in the car — a granola bar, banana, and juice box will keep them busy on the drive and you can rest easy knowing they’re off to school with a full belly.

Pro tip: Build in a few extra minutes so unexpected needs (a grumpy child who needs a quiet snuggle or a scraped knee that needs a bandaid) don’t add overwhelming pressure.

IDEA #4: Reminders, rewards, and positive reinforcement

How you use reminders will also be dependent on the age, stage, and ability of your child. Here are three reminders you might use to keep your child on track (without having to repeat yourself 327 times).

  1. Set a timer: Older kids might set one timer per task to keep from getting distracted. For younger kids who need help, you can say something like, “We’ve got 15 minutes to get dressed, put shoes on, and put your lunch in your backpack. Ready? Let’s do it together!”

  2. Play music: If your child likes music, make a morning playlist. Choose favorite tunes that are around 3–5 minutes long. If the music is familiar, they will know when a song is coming to an end — and they’ll learn that it’s a signal for the task to be finished, too.

  3. Follow a routine chart: Make it fun and simple, using visuals for some kids and words for those who can read. They can mark the tasks off as they go so they can see their progress. You can give them a high five, an enthusiastic “You did it!”, or a wink and a smile along the way for encouragement.

Talk as a family about whether a rewards system can help the morning routine go more smoothly. Leave perfection out of the conversation and focus on small wins — rather than five great days, look for 1–2 completed tasks. (Earning a reward shouldn’t feel impossible.) Be patient, give them a chance to succeed, and always use rewards as a motivator, rather than as punishment.

Prioritize celebrating your child when you see them putting in effort. Ask your kids what they think is going well and how it makes them feel. Share openly how happy it makes you, too, when they do an awesome job. Kids want to feel good and make you proud, so when you catch them doing something right (even in the midst of mistakes), acknowledge it and let them see your smiling face shining down at them. 

Lastly, remind your child that a bad morning doesn’t make them a bad person. It’s just part of learning — and you’re all learning together. Then, remind yourself that when it’s not going well, it’s still going to be okay. Give yourself some positive feedback, too, knowing that tomorrow brings another chance to try. 

When you and your child need more support with morning madness, or when you have questions or concerns, we’re here to help.