Getting kids dressed, fed, and ready for school might sound easy, but we all know the reality isn't so simple. A missing shoe or a sock that doesn't "feel right" can turn an entire morning routine on its ear. Add in TV shows, video games, and iPad tug-of-wars, and a peaceful start to your family's day is down the tube.
In my house, we've experimented with every possible morning media rule. But when my kids' teachers requested that parents keep the TV off before school, our rules got much simpler: No electronics at all in the morning. The trickiest part of that equation for us is managing to get two adults ready without the easy distraction of TV to keep the kids out of our hair.
Here at Common Sense, we reached out on Twitter and Facebook to find out what strategies parents use for taming their own morning madness. We got some great solutions from parents who are making mornings work with a variety of media strategies.
No media in the mornings, period. Sometimes a hard-and-fast rule is the best solution. It avoids confusion and eliminates the possibility of negotiation, which can slow down the morning routine.
- R.M., via Facebook: Kids are not allowed any electronics before school. Solves the problem. They get to have free time after school for 30 minutes then homework and dinner. If they have their chores and homework complete then they get time with electronics.
- J.F., via Facebook: All electronic media is surrendered at 9 p.m. at night and the TV is not allowed on in the morning. As the kids leave for school they are given their phones for the day. My kids are starting 8th grade and cannot be distracted in the morning. They need to get ready for tests, presentations, and prepare for the day ahead. No room for media to clutter the mind. Our priority is school. Everything else can wait.
- J.M., via Facebook: I told my daughter that Miss Joanne (her preschool teacher) said no TV before school, which has helped reaffirm the rule. It's enough of a challenge getting her to take off her pull-up and get herself dressed so I needed all the help I could get. If she's been efficient about getting ready to go and I'm the one lagging behind, I let her play an app on the iPad. It's easier to wrap that up without a tearful production from her than if she had been watching TV.
No media until everyone is done getting ready. TV and other devices have a magical pull on kids -- turn them on too early, and you'll be nagging them to brush their teeth or put on their shoes over the sounds of Jessie or Angry Birds. Allow devices only after everyone's suited up, and kids will be motivated to hurry.
- J.K.L., via Facebook: We have a "no screens until you're ready to walk out the door" rule. If there's time left, a screen is permissible but only until 5 minutes before school-bus time.
- M.C.M., via Facebook: We do NO media in the morning until ALL are ready to go, then if there's time left they can. You would be surprised at the hustle the kids put out with that kind of incentive! We have no media after school as well until homework/sports and playtime/dinner is done.
Morning media to motivate and babysit. Juggling multiple kids or managing a single-parent household can mean TV is the answer to keeping the morning schedule on track. Music can also be a great way to keep kids moving.
- D.C., via Facebook: [My son] watches TV while having breakfast in bed. He goes to sleep in the new shirt he's wearing to school the next day so all we have to do is throw on shorts and head out the door. We tape shows he likes so we can skip through commercials as needed so we don't run late. Keeps him happy and leaves me time to do what I need to before I leave for the day too.
- R.U.E., via Facebook: I have a drop-dead start-getting-ready time when breakfast goes on the table and the gadgets turn off. I do have the TV on for my preschooler to occupy him while I get his older sisters ready for elementary school, but it's usually a good motivator for my almost-first grader to hurry so she can sit and watch while her sister finishes up.
- A.L., via Facebook: I made a CD with songs that remind the kids to get dressed, eat, and brush their teeth. It's timed from when they get up to out the door. In between the "work" songs are their fave songs so it's fun. It has saved us a ton of battles.
Parents avoid media until kids are out the door. If we don't want kids distracted by phones, games, and Facebook, then we can model the behavior we want to see.
- B.S., via Facebook: I have two fifth graders and an eighth grader. No screens on school days except for homework. I check my phone and emails (and Facebook) once they are on the bus, and I don't use any of it once they're back home.
- K.O. via Twitter: No media for me except radio 'til the kids leave.
Tell us how your family deals with the morning rush!