Written schedule is a good start to the day

October 26, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

We've made countless attempts to improve our family's morning routine.

We've tried having a "Let's see who can get ready first" contest.

We've tried giving only one direction at a time: "Great. You are dressed. Now brush your teeth."

We've tried telling our children what time they should to be ready for school.

Everything they need is by the door.

Still, it seemed like we were always rushing them at the last minute to get ready. It's emotionally upsetting for everyone.

On a recent evening, my husband and I were discussing this issue and how we could make things better for our kids, and ultimately for us. Who wants to show up at work having said, "C'mon! It's time to go!" at least 15 times?


Because my husband knows our kids so well, he suggested a written schedule.

We worked backward from the time we need to leave the house and listed for our kids what they need to do and how much time they have for each task.

Then we handed them the piece of paper.

Suddenly our 8-year-old became a different person in the morning.

She had her list of what she needed to do, and she was following it to the minute.

"Mommy, I have three more minutes to clean up my breakfast dishes," she happily reported one day this week. "Next I go upstairs. Then I brush my teeth."

I nodded and smiled. Why didn't we think of a written schedule before now? My third-graders love to check our class schedule on the wall. If I end a subject a few minutes early or run over a bit, they question it, especially if it's time for recess.

Kids like routine, and they want to know what's going to happen next.

By having written instructions, my daughter felt more in control of her morning routine and was able to stay on task. All of our verbal commands were ineffective. She obeyed, but by the time all was said and done, everyone was feeling quite frazzled.

She responded best when the instructions were before her in black and white. If she was unsure what to do next, she just checked her list.

The first morning she followed the schedule, we arrived 10 minutes earlier than we usually do. The next morning we were 15 minutes earlier than usual.

This is what we wrote on her list:

6:15 - Wake up. Make your bed.

6:30 - Go downstairs.

6:35 - Get out your breakfast food.

6:40 - Eat breakfast.

6:50 - Finish eating and put your bowl/plate in sink.

6:55 - Put away breakfast food.

7:00 - Go upstairs.

7:05 - Brush teeth. Brush hair.

7:10 - Start getting dressed.

7:15 - Finish getting dressed.

7:20 - Put books, lunch box and jacket in van.

7:30 - Get in van and be ready to go.

After the first day, she asked if she could swap the time she gets dressed for the time she brushes her teeth and hair. That was our first clue that she was taking ownership of the schedule.

We hope that the more she uses the list, the less time she will waste. We realize that will come with time as she becomes more confident with her routine. Obviously, it shouldn't take an 8-year-old an hour and 15 minutes to get ready for school.

For now, we're just pleased to have made progress, and we've been generous with praise for her efforts.

All she needed was a road map to follow.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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