5 Tools for a No-Yelling Morning Routine

Getting T out the door in the morning had some rough patches before our "summer off," but after 10 weeks of nearly no scheduled events...getting her out the door in the morning for school seemed like an impossible task. Every morning during the summer she'd wake when she wanted, we'd eat a leisurely breakfast, go for a mile+ walk/run with the dog, then we'd plod through her morning self-care routine, I'd help her set out her morning playthings and she'd play independently for most of the morning while I blew through my to-do list. It was slow, it was relaxed, it was so nice.

Now that we're back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming...she's having a hard time speeding things up. Even on the first day back at school, I found myself sliding into my old routine of getting frustrated, raising my voice, and being harsh. I saw Bobby's reaction first and realized I was back to being a Jerk Mom. I hated it, and it's not like those tactics actually get kids to speed up. They tend to send T into "freeze" mode, which only makes things worse. Here are the 5 tools I started employing to help smooth out our morning routine and get everyone out the door without yelling (usually):

1. A Sunday Well-Spent Brings a Week of Content
Prep any and everything ahead that you can. For me, that looks like a Sunday spent meal prepping and grocery shopping, prepping T's "snack bag," being sure she has a fresh change of clothes in her backpack, packing the week's freshly laundered nap blanket and stuffed animal, and checking all of our agendas to coordinate schedules. This sounds like a lot, but really only takes an hour or two of our weekend...and it pays big time over the course of the week.

2. Set a Strong Evening Routine. 
Smooth evenings lead to smooth mornings. When little ones go to bed knowing what's next, they tend to wake and start the day a little calmer. Our Evening Routine Chart really helps Calm Preschooler Bedtime Drama, which leads to a happier, healthier morning. 

3. Early to Bed, Early to Rise
Yes, this one sucks. I find, though, that if I'm ready or nearly ready to go when T wakes, I have a MUCH better shot at getting her out the door on time. That means that I make an honest effort to get to bed earlier...even if it means missing out on an extra bit of tv time. I'm always grateful I did it. Obviously it's not possible every night, but it definitely helps.

4. Set Food Routines
I'm normally loathe to a food routine because I don't want to encourage picky eating. That said...we have 4 breakfast options every morning and T knows she can choose from THOSE FOUR ONLY. They are: organic honey-nut o's (with or w/o milk), granola (w/ milk or yogurt), organic raisin bran (with or w/o milk), and frozen berries with yogurt. She can always add a piece of fruit to that lineup like a banana or an apple, but that's it. Same goes for lunches: she knows she will (within reason) have the same basic packed lunch every day. I give her a few options on the morning-of while I pack her food, but we don't deviate too far outside of the routine M-F because it just keeps everything running smoothly. I can get breakfast on the table in a minute or two, which gives me a chance to make lunch and chat with her while she eats.

If you're wondering what I do on mornings when she asks for something outside of the Standard 4: I simply re-state her options and ask her what she'd like from those choices. We have lots of options that I open up on the weekends, but they don't need to be in the mix to complicate things when we're hurrying to get out the door. She is always hungry and inevitably chooses from the list. If she doesn't eat everything, then she doesn't eat everything. She has snack waiting for her at school (packed that on Sunday, so I know it's all good for the week), as well as the lunch that I've made. We pick back up the next day and try again, with no anger on my part if she chooses not to eat her food.

5. Set a Strong Morning Routine
In case you haven't noticed...most of these tools involve setting a standard and sticking to it. I've found this to be the number one way to keep a 2 or 3-year-old moving toward the door in the morning. Our morning routine chart covers everything important that T can do herself (within reason). She is still young enough to need some support from me in "checking" things off the list, but the chart ensures we both know that everything necessary has been done so that we can head out the door feeling confident and prepared for our day.

Is there anything that you'd add to the list? What are your favorite ways to keep your kiddos on-task, setting them up for success at school? Tell me in the comments and your ideas might end up in a secondary blog post (with credit)!


Lindsay Sweeting was in the world of Marketing and Publicity in her previous life. These days you're more likely to see her running after her toddler than running a meeting, but she does her best to find time to create new recipes, come up with fun activities for her daughter, and write about the craziness that is life in the Sweeting house.

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