Mary Steichen Calderone
I think of the quote above often when I am working with my eight to eighteen year olds on “life skills.” All of the character, skills, routines, relationship abilities, work ethic, and education that they develop now will follow them all throughout their lives—and will have a profound influence on the kinds of spouses, parents, workers, citizens, and Christians that they will be as adults. Every life skill that we teach our children—and better yet, model for them—has the potential to help them be successful in many areas of life—even the morning routine.
If you find yourself chasing your preteen around with a toothbrush and hair brush or following your teen around, helping him find his shoes and stuffing things in his backpack every morning, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way! Again, a huge part of successful parenting is being a problem solver. We can continue chasing every morning, or we can implement routines and schedules that help us “prevent” that morning chaos.
Here are some tips for developing morning routines with older children (beyond preschool):
1. If your family has been of the mindset that chasing, stuffing bags and backpacks, cajoling, etc. are part of Mom’s job description, you will want to change that way of thinking quickly! Allowing our children to be irresponsible because we feel guilty if we do not do everything for them is not going to help us parent our children to become independent.
2. Partner with your older child to decide what he needs to do each morning. Let him suggest a doable list with your input.
3. Make a chart or list on the computer—or have your older child do that, so he can monitor his own progress on accomplishing his morning goals.
4. If mornings are extremely hectic now—with older kids on the computer, rising late, etc. and part of the family waiting in the car beeping the horn, etc., you will want to be firmer about establishing the morning routine and what order things are done, etc. We have done this for so many years that our boys, for the most part, know that this is what you do in the morning. When these items are done, I can do something else I want to do, start my school, etc.
5. If your children go to school, I recommend just putting in the morning routine those chores that pertain to that child, such as making his bed, straightening his room, putting his pajamas away, cleaning up messes he made, etc. Save other family chores for after school or before bed. (More on chore charts, appropriate ages for various chores, etc. in upcoming posts!)
6. If your older kids are poor prioritizers, you will want to use this opportunity to help them learn the art of prioritizing. If they consistently make bad choices when it comes to getting things done, you might have to “bring in the boundaries” some and give them step-by-step instructions on what to do for now. Once they gain responsibility and diligence, you can broaden that and give them more leeway. For example, if they get on the computer, text friends, etc. instead of getting their routine done, you might have to institute a “no electronics” rule until they show themselves more faithful. Remember, this entire process is a teaching opportunity—and some of our older kids need more lessons than others!