Having raised three kids I get it, getting up, ready and out the door in the morning can seem like a military operation. So why not treat it as such..

The key steps in planning a military operation include:
● Defining the objective
● Conducting a thorough assessment
● Developing a plan
● Assessing risks
● Conducting rehearsals
● Executing the plan
● Monitoring, adapting, debriefing and evaluating

1. Let’s start with defining the objectives
Getting out in the morning will include a morning ritual which will have habits, customs and routines. If used properly, the right actions practised with consistency could have a major impact on your family life.
Benefits of having a clear morning routine: it has the ability to reduce your negative voice in the house, increase teamwork, reduce procrastination, boost confidence, improve overall performance and happiness of the home and set the day up on a positive note.

2. Conduct a thorough assessment
Ask yourself:
● Why is your current morning operation not working? Are you yelling, getting up too late, trying to do too many jobs in the morning, fighting over getting dressed? Are the kids tired and maybe you need to work on your bedtime routine?
● What IS working? If something is working, you can carry that forward to your new morning operational plan.
● Did it used to work? Have a think about whether your morning did work at some point and what were you doing differently? Often when I work with parents, they can remember a point in their family life where a morning routine was working. So think about why that was and why you stopped doing what worked well. What changed?

3. Developing a plan
It’s important that you use the whole team here and don’t just set up a plan alone and then force it on everyone. In order for a military operation to go smoothly and successfully you need the whole team on your side, working with you in co-operation.
So sit down with your team and talk about what needs to be done in order for this operation (morning routine) to go well.
● Talk about what is working well for the moment.
● Talk about where everyone thinks it goes wrong.
● Listen to their ideas: listen to understand, not to talk. Bite your tongue if you feel you want to interrupt or oppose their ideas. If you want them to follow the new routine, this needs to be their operation too. They need to feel that they have some level of control.
● Let them have a say: maybe they want to eat breakfast first and get dressed afterwards. Trust that they can make good decisions. Give it a go, you can always review it later.
● Less is more: maybe they really don’t have to make their beds, empty the dishwasher etc. in the morning. Just focus on the tasks that really matter: get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and go. This means there is less to follow up on and therefore less commands.

  • Children are individual: ‘I am a morning person – or evening person’. We hear adults saying it, and kids are individual too so try to think in these lines. I was working with a dad who said that his son really wasn’t hungry in the morning. So they decide to give it and go and that he could bring his breakfast to school and eat in there. It worked, and they removed a major stress factor from the morning routine. My daughter is not a morning person so she chooses not to do her bed and other chores in the morning but in the afternoon. My son was a morning person and was up before everyone else and that is where he functions best so did his home work there.

● List all the tasks that are needed in your morning routine: get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, lunch in the bag, put on coat and shoes etc. Then add them in a sequence that suits everyone.

Make it visual and clear: Once you have agreed to all the above, write or draw up the plan. Make sure everyone signs it and hang it somewhere where everyone can see CLICK here for a template plan.

● A good morning operation starts the night before: so what can you do the night before so you have less to do in the morning? Get clothes ready, pack school bags and PE kits, set the breakfast table, have shoes and coat ready etc. And homework is not for the morning (unless you have agreed to it)! 

4. Assessing risks
So, now you have a plan, will it work? Is there anything in your plan that might create risk of failure? For instance:
● You have agreed to get up at 7.30 but need to be out the door by 8. Is that realistic, or do you need to get up earlier?
● You have agreed to do the lunches in the morning. You might see a risk that it will cause fights and delays so maybe do that the evening before?
● You know that you are not a morning person and might be the one that causes negative tension in the home? So maybe you need to get up earlier to get some alone time, meditate, do your chores etc.
Consult the ‘team’ – ask them if there is anything in the new morning routine that they think might not work.

5. Conducting rehearsals
Try the morning routine on a weekend to see if your new operation plan works and will fall into place once war really breaks out. This way you have time to adjust the plan in calm times and not in the heat of the moment.

6. Executing the plan

Time to go. Now you need to trust your team that you have created a solid morning operation. Stick to the plan and try not to get sidetracked by begging, negotiation or your child’s big emotions.

They might need some time to adjust to the new routine and even though you have agreed to it together they can still have big emotions. Just accept this as normal and natural and stick to the plan.

Remember you have written it down, so all you need to do at this stage is refer to the AGREED plan and send a signal that you WILL stick to it: ‘As agreed, you will get dressed before breakfast’, or ‘As agreed you will brush your teeth before leaving the house’ etc.

Use praise instead of commanding: you can use this tool called ‘step-by-step praise. This is where you see ALL small improvements towards the desired outcome as a successful achievement that needs your full attention. For instance, if they look at you when you ask them to get dressed, show that you have noticed it and like it: ‘thank you for listening to me, I really appreciate that you are going to get dressed as agreed’. Or, if they start putting their shoes on, you can acknowledge that they are doing up their shoes, that you have noticed it and like it instead of rushing them off to the next task. You can use words, you can use hugs or smiles or you can sit with them to show them that you are part of this process and take it so seriously that you are also going to give the task your time.

CLICK here to read about how to manage your emotions when war breaks out.
CLICK here to watch a video about how to ‘say NO and set boundaries, successfully’.

7. Monitoring, adapting, debriefing and evaluating

It might be that after a week of trialling your new morning operation you find that actually there are a few things that don’t work. That is OK.
Get together as a team and talk about what needs to be changed and how to make your morning routine bulletproof.
You can ask:
● What do you think worked well this week?
● What do you think can be improved?

Then you can adapt the plan as needed.

When you are coming up to holiday time you can get together and talk about holiday mornings and what you might want to do differently.
And once you have set up the above military operation process you can use it for anything: bedtime, homework, screen time, getting dressed, dinner time etc.

CLICK here to read ‘Does your child struggle getting dressed in the morning’?

Mette Theilmann, Director of Predictable Parenting & founder of the Parenting Community App