Several parents have shared that they need parenting tips from our organized Montessori teachers. One put it this way, "How do we get out of the house in the morning without a meltdown?" Here are tips that work for other parents.
One of the key and most difficult components of a schedule is consistency.
After the adults finish their workday and come home, their homework begins. Chores like shopping, cooking, bedtime and preparing for the next day, are what keep parents up late at night. We all need nourishment and plenty of rest to help us live full lives. Children need these things too. Often the difficulty comes in when there is not enough time between every one returning home and going to bed. What I hear mostly from parents are two things: We get home so late but still want to spend time with our children so we keep them up later at night. Then our children cannot fall asleep or wake up on time in the morning; or, because our children take naps at school, they are not tired and don’t fall asleep until long past our bedtime.
First, establish a reasonable bedtime for your children.
Our sleep coach, Christina Gantcher*, tells us that young children do need naps during the day and the time they go to bed at night should not be more than 5 hours from the time they wake from their afternoon nap. If you start with the end goal in mind, for example, a 7:30 bedtime, you can back up everything you need to do in the hours you are home to bedtime. If you get home at 5:30, that gives your family 2 hours to eat, clean, and prepare for bed. The preparation for the next day including packing lunches can happen after the children are in bed. See my previous blog post about sleeping. A bedtime routine should be the same every evening. Dinner, wash up, brush teeth, read books and snuggle, lights out. Children do best when they can predict what comes next in their day. If you usually have time to read 3 books, then set the limit to 3 and stick with it. Your child can choose the 3 books from a group of acceptable books that you make available. This is also a great time for your older child to practice reading skills with you or siblings.
In the morning get up first.
The morning routine flows much better if the parents are first up, showered, and dressed before the children get up. You may need to organize your clothing and work bag the night before. Set the breakfast table with two choices. The goal is to have a relaxing breakfast with your child.
No TV, tablets or telephones at the table. Try conversation instead. Everyone's day flows better with breakfast before leaving the house. Consider breakfast as your most important mealtime together.
Time to get dressed - only have appropriate choices available.
Around about 3 years of age children start dressing themselves. This is a great step towards independence. Allow it to happen. Don't worry about mix-matched clothing, shoes or socks. But, you must make sure that all choices are appropriate for the weather. Put the summer clothing away now. Tutus over pants or tights are acceptable if your child is comfortable working and playing in them. Sandals and shorts are not available in the winter.
Some children may pick out their clothing the night before. Check the weather with your child, discuss what will work for the weather predicted for the next day. If this is something you want to try, have some ground rules about the possibility of a change of mind. Is that going to work for you?
Allow plenty of time.
Mornings cannot be rushed. You have to be organized and know just how long each task requires. Make a schedule with your child and discuss the sequence of activities. Rushing causes some meltdowns. Your child really does want to get to school on time.
Many organized parents also do these things:
- cook meals ahead on the weekend, prepare cut up vegetables for dinners and have plenty of fresh fruit on hand
- pack lunches the night before or choose the catered school lunch option
- pack backpacks with your child the night before
- turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime
- be disciplined about how much work you will do after the children are in bed
Change and organization are hard but so very worth it!
Just chose one item that you want to change and slowly move towards it. It takes about 2 weeks for a change to become part of routine. Don’t give up! The reward is manageable evenings and mornings without meltdowns! You can do it!