Any mom knows that mornings are basically epic sh*tshows and that goes double (triple?) for weekday mornings.
Mornings with my kids are basically just a tornado of tears, toothpaste, thrown pajamas, and random limbs that you’re trying to shove into clothes, socks, shoes, and car seats. You never really realize how heavy little kids are until you’re trying to carry two tiny, boneless bodies from bedrooms to bathrooms to stairs to chairs to cars. This doesn’t account for the constant negotiations over what show to watch, what to wear, what to eat, and what they want to be packed for lunch. Toss in a healthy dose of parental anxiety over being late to school and work and a smattering of sibling fights and you’ve got our typical weekday morning.
If none of this sounds familiar to you, well, then I need your secrets.
After months of having to literally drag my children out of the house in the mornings, and trying techniques like reward charts, setting iPhone or Alexa timers, giving in to all negotiations, and good ol’ bribing, I was at my wits’ end. I was tired of losing my patience and feeling constantly overwhelmed and outnumbered (my husband leaves for work before we’re all out of bed). There had to be a better way.
While searching my brain for all of the classroom management methods I learned back in grad school, I realized I was neglecting a key factor of childhood development when putting all of these time constraints on my kids: they, at 4 and 6 years old, have very little concept of what time actually is. Me giving them arbitrary time limits, like 15 minutes for this or 10 minutes for that, meant nothing to them. Duh.
I quickly went on Amazon and Primed a simple visual kitchen timer for each kid–one that clearly delineated how much time was left with a red wedge that aligned with the minutes remaining. The next morning I explained to them how it worked. They would be able to tell how much time we had for each morning activity by seeing how much red space was left; the red space would get smaller and smaller as their time was nearing a close. Suddenly, they were fine turning the TV off in 15 minutes after one show or finishing their breakfast quickly so they had “red time” leftover to play before school. They just had to see it.
As it turns out, kids, like all people, like to know what’s coming to an end just as much as they like to know what’s coming up. Like all people, they feel respected when they feel forewarned and have the ability to mentally prepare for the parts of their day. Abruptly shuttling them from one transition to another contributes to their feeling out of control–I know, because I feel like that too.
When this simple tool inevitably stops working, I’ll keep you updated. For now, we’re keeping our little timers close to smooth out our mornings.