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Let me tell you a story about what my mornings used to be like:

It’s a typical weekday morning. I’m trying to be cheerful, but I’m looking at the clock. The dreaded school-time transition is just around the corner.

In five minutes, we need to put on several layers of outdoor clothing, get out the door, so we can get to school on time (I’ve done the late-to-school-walk-of-shame a few too many times this year already.)

The backpacks are loaded. The kids are dressed and fed.

There’s just one problem… the kids are having fun.

Normally, I’d be thrilled that they’re so absorbed in their LEGO game and playing peacefully together, but the countdown is on. When I remind the kids that there are only a few minutes left before we have to leave for school, they look up anxiously from their game and moan: “We want to keep playiiiiiiing!”

The timer goes off, and I have to nudge and herd them down the stairs, barking like a grumpy sheepdog. They jostle and bleat like stubborn sheep. It’s not pretty.

The next challenge happens at the bottom of the stairs. Our home is built with a tiny little landing, so as the kids look for their boots and mittens, I’m watching from the top of the stairs, hoping they don’t lose their balance and fall down the stairs to the basement. I can’t stand on the landing with them, because that would make the overcrowding even worse, but I’m too far away to be very effective if one of them starts making faces in the mirror, drawing shapes in the foggy window, tossing scarves to entertain the cat… you get the picture.

positive feedback correction

I knew I had to figure out a way to smooth out the morning routine and drop the nagging.

Here’s the routine we set up instead…

Getting set up for a smooth morning launch

First, I cue up a song on my phone. I pick something peppy and thrilling, like the Doctor Who theme song or Darth Vader’s March. I tell the kids: BATTLE STATIONS IN 5 minutes. The song acts as a substitute for my voice, so I can play it as loud as I want, and it will grab their attention (even better, I don’t have to yell.)

As they play, I buzz around and set up the “battle stations.”

I place each child’s boots, sweaters (yes, multiple sweaters, they are very into layering for some reason), mittens and their backpack in a separate spot. One child is set up at the top of the stairs. The other child’s belongings are set up at the bottom of the stairs.

The timer goes off, time for school…

I call “BATTLE STATIONS!” and each child scampers over to their assigned station. There’s a really positive energy and a clear mission. They have everything they need, ready to go, and as long as the song is playing, they keep working on their mission. Now that there is less clutter and fewer distractions, it’s much easier for them to keep busy with their own tasks instead of teasing each other.

How to rock this transition-time in your home:

  1. De-clutter as much as possible. Put out only what your child will need, and set it up in order if you can.
  2. Replace your verbal reminder with something more fun. Music grabs their attention, and changes the energy in the room.
  3. Introduce this routine with a smile.

Stress can be contagious, and when we run into the same frustrating situations every day, just the mention of “getting ready” can add an edge to our voices and a furrow to our brows.

If you’re tired of herding and barking every morning, I hope this morning routine refresher can help you start your day feeling like a rock star.