No one ever told you that motherhood was synonymous with chronic lateness. But from packing the depleted diaper bag to getting your dawdlers motivated, there are plenty of reasons you probably feel like you haven’t gotten anywhere on time since your was born. Let’s face it: Kids dilly-dally, moms nag — and no one gets out the door any faster. To the rescue: solid strategies from organization experts and real moms like you for getting your kids (and yourself) out the door.
Bribe them with Breakfast
Mom Jennifer W. of Watertown, MA, says her 8-year-old daughter “is the walking definition of ‘not a morning person,’ but when she hears there’s hot chocolate on the table, she moves a lot faster.” Mom Emily P. of Kensington, MD, tells her kids they can eat breakfast by the gas fireplace on cold winter mornings. In other words, entice your late-risers with a special treat that will motivate them to get out of bed!
Make it A Competition
For young kids with a competitive streak, this can work wonders. In our house, the first one down (or up) the stairs is the “superhero.” Playing “Who Can Do it First?” can help speed up everything from getting your tot dressed to getting him to the car — and help you get wherever you need to be on time.
Get Them to Bed On Time
Want a good morning? Start with a good night’s sleep. “I find that getting my daughter to bed early enough — even when it seems insanely early — makes a big difference,” says Hilo, HI, mom Leslie L. “We have to get up at 5:15 a.m., so I put a lot of effort into making sure dinner and homework are done and she’s in bed by 7:00 p.m.”
Give Them Warnings
Many kids, especially little ones, have a hard time stopping what they’e doing and quickly changing course. To help them stay on schedule, Watson recommends giving your kids 10-minute, 5-minute, and 2-minute departure warnings. ‘Set a timer — there are even talking ones on the market that will countdown the minutes for them,’ she says. It’s a trick that Olathe, KS, dad David P. uses on his son. “He doesn’t know time, but it puts the idea in his head that we’re doing something else shortly, and he’ll have to stop whatever it is that he’s doing now.”
Make Breakfast Portable - and Healthy
Chef Jennifer Carden, author of The Toddler Café, says the key to helping your kids focus in class is feeding them protein and liquids in the morning. How do you do this fast and easily? Serve up healthy, portable breakfast burritos and smoothies. Scramble eggs, deli turkey and avocado or thawed spinach together and wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla (you can make it the night before and reheat in the morning). Or whip up a smoothie with frozen fruit, protein powder and milk. Another quick option: Dress up thick, creamy Greek yogurt with fruit, granola and a drizzle of honey. Yum!
Let Them Miss The Bus
If your kids are older, let them experience the consequences of their dawdling, says Janet Schiesl, owner of Basic Organization and the co-author of Experts-Strategies Get Organized Today. That could mean accepting an “F” on an assignment that gets left at home, having to buy school lunch if they’re too rushed to make their own, or yes, missing the bus. Schiesl used to charge her high school-age son $1 for a ride to school on days he lingered too long to catch the bus. Emily P. also used a tough-love tactic when her son missed the bus one day after numerous close calls. She couldn’t drive him that day, so she says, “I had him call the school to tell them why he wasn’t there and ask the teacher [for] assignments he could do at home that day,” she says. “He never missed the bus again.”
Establish a Morning Routine
With three boys in school, a morning routine is essential for getting to class on time for San Anselmo, CA, mom Amy C. “When I tell them it’s breakfast time, they know they have to eat, brush their teeth and get dressed with no breaks in between,” she says. Watson applauds this technique. By doing the same things in the same order, kids know what they need to do next — and it becomes automatic for them, she says. Another tip: Time your kids to see how long it takes to get out the door from the moment you say it’s time to go. What you think should take 5 minutes might actually take 15, Watson says. “Allowing yourself enough time to get out the door will help you make a stress-free exit.”
Make Note of Your Child’s Challenges
Depending on your kid’s age, there are some tasks she just may not be able to do herself. So Watson recommends figuring out what duties trip her up. If tying her shoelaces takes her a long time, consider helping her in the morning instead of repeatedly nagging her to do it herself. (Later, of course, help her practice so that she eventually gets it!) If your son spills every time he pours milk from the carton into his cereal bowl, transfer the amount he needs into a small, easier-to-handle cup so he can still pour it himself, but without the mess.
Turn Off and Tune Out
If you’re addicted to your iPhone or Blackberry, it can be hard to imagine starting the day unplugged. But Watson recommends that parents avoid checking emails and surfing the Internet before dropping off their kids at school in the morning. “These create a huge black hole when it comes to time, because it’s hard to just ‘check one thing really quickly!” she says. “Inevitably, you’ll spend way more time online than you plan.” Schiesl recommends keeping the TV off, too, especially if it distracts your kids (or you!) from getting going. Listen to the radio instead.
Use a Family Calendar
Keep everyone’s schedule straight with one calendar that all family members can consult, Schiesl says. (Her pick: a big, laminated monthly version that can be put on a wall or the fridge.) “Band practice after school tomorrow? The calendar will remind you to pack your music in your backpack,” she says. “It’s a great visual way to consult your schedule.” And knowing what your kid needs on what day can keep you organized in the morning — no last-minute rushing around for the clarinet case or softball glove because you just remembered it.
Wake Up First
We know you’re tired. (We are, too!) But being the first one out of bed can eliminate a big source of morning stress: getting your kids and yourself ready at the same time. East Orange, NJ, mom Anna H. wakes up an hour early on days she has to take her son to daycare in order to get herself ready and get organized for the day. What makes up for the lost sleep: having extra time to snuggle with her slow-to-get-going son. Another tip: Take a shower at night, after your kids are in bed, so it’ll take you less time to get ready the next morning.