Getting a Grip on Morning

I have an early riser in my house. Most mornings, my youngest is up before 7 a.m., which should be plenty of time to get her body ready and out the door. Most mornings we don't have any trouble.

But then there are those mornings.

You know the ones I'm talking about. The mornings when everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. The mornings where the simplest of tasks, like finding shoes, takes 10 minutes. The mornings where everyone is ready to go out the door and a child spills orange juice all over her new shirt.

Those are the mornings that tax our patience to the limit. Those are the mornings that have us giving up on the day before it's hardly begun. Those are the mornings that turn us into moms who yell, "Just get in the car. We're late."

I hate those mornings, and my kids hate them, too. And I know many of you are thinking, "That's my house every morning."

But mornings don't have to be like that. We can get our kids out the door or to the school desk without losing our cool. Even when the orange juice gets spilled at the last minute.

There's no magic routine that's going to make mornings easier. There's no simple fix. The truth is, the key to morning success lies with us. We set the tone for the way the day starts in our homes. If we're grumpy and frustrated in the mornings, then our kids will be, too. If we're rushed, our kids will be, too. If we're focused on perfection, then our kids will be, too.

When we change the way we approach mornings, our kids will respond. If mornings are a struggle at your house, look at how you're handling them, then change the only behavior you have complete control over -- yours. Try these tips for changing the way mornings look at your house.

Start the day with prayer. This is essential to setting the tone of your morning. Snatch a few minutes to cover the day with prayer -- even if those minutes are in the shower. Turn the day over to Him. Make Psalm 118:24 your wake-up prayer: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Ask God for peace and patience as you go through your day. Ask Him to specifically make your morning go smoothly. Say a quick prayer for each of your kids. This doesn't have to take long, but five minutes of prayer can go a long way toward a smoother morning.

Leave enough time. Most of our morning frustrations come when we don't have enough time to get everything done. If you have a slow mover in your household, wake him up 10 minutes earlier than the other kids. If you're a slow mover, make your wake-up time 10 minutes earlier. If you have extra time before school starts, reward your kids with a few minutes of TV time, a chapter in a book or a game before you go. If your kids know they'll get rewarded for being ready, they'll work harder to get ready on time.

Know your kids. I have one child who can get up 20 minutes before she has to be out the door and have herself ready to go. My other daughter often spends 10 minutes looking for her shoes (Mainly because she takes each shoe off in a different part of the house. She often walks around with one shoe on and one shoe off. It makes finding her shoes really difficult if she didn't put them away.) Knowing this, I always try to leave some extra time for shoe finding. Some kids respond to games or challenges. Other kids respond to structure. Know what works with your kids and put that structure into place for mornings.

Plan ahead. Before you go to bed at night, check the schedule for the next day. Know what has to be done in the morning so you can allow enough time for it. Some people make lunches and pack backpacks the night before. We do it all in the morning, but I usually know what needs to be done before I go to bed.

Take a deep breath. When things start to go awry in the mornings, take a deep breath and think about what your about to get upset about is really worth it. Will it be a disaster if your daughter goes out in a neon green top and purple polka-dotted pants? Will the world end if your son decided to pack his own lunch of fruit snacks and bananas? Sometimes, we have to let go of our picture of perfection to make the day run smoothly.  Decide whether the battle you're about to fight is really worth it. Sometimes it is, but many times it's not.

How we start the day makes a difference to us and it makes a difference to our kids. Make your mornings run smoothly by starting with your own attitude and behavior. Starting the day with prayer, leaving enough time, knowing our kids, planning ahead and taking a deep breath can get us and our kids on our way with a smile.