Even if you’re a morning person, getting out of the house with little ones might make you wish you could just go back to bed—or at least figure out how to wake up on the right side of it. As hard as a natural smile may be when the kids aren’t cooperating and the coffee is cold before you get the chance to drink it, instituting some positive parenting practices first thing in the morning is an investment that will pay off throughout the day.
“These tips aren’t just good for the morning, but fill your child’s cup so they’re feeling confident and loved to deal with whatever the day brings,” says Kate Orson, a Hand-in-Hand instructor and author of Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children.
Here’s how to help the whole family rise and shine:
1. Start prepping the night before
“Plan as much as you can the night before,” suggests author and parenting expert Julia Cook. “The more you do the night before, the more predictable the morning can be and the less rushed you feel.”
Cook suggests incorporating one thing into the nighttime routine that is all about creating a special, positive experience for the morning—like preparing a special breakfast or putting the next day’s outfit into the dryer so that it will feel like a warm hug when it’s time to get dressed.
2. Wake up first
If your wake-up call currently comes in the form of a baby or toddler, licensed mental health counselor Dr. Jaime Kulaga suggests setting an alarm for a bit earlier—hard as it may initially seem.
Kulaga says this time not only allows you to center your mind or use the bathroom in peace, but will also help you return the favor of a pleasant wake-up with your little ones: When you go into their room, do something that wakes them up gently, such as giving them a little back rub or singing a soft song.
3. Take a few moments to connect
For some kids, every side of the bed is the wrong side to wake up on. If your little one is not a morning person, they might need an extra dose of positivity upon waking. One technique Orson likes is what she calls “giggle parenting.”
To do this in the morning, set a timer for 10 or so minutes and spend that time dancing to some fun music, connecting and—hopefully—laughing.
“Children are often reluctant to get ready in the mornings because they know there’s an impending separation from you,” Orson says. “Play and connection help fill a child’s cup, so they are ready to face the day.”
If the struggles continue even after your kiddo has climbed out of bed, get giggly again. “If a child won’t brush teeth, put on clothes or eat breakfast, use giggles to connect and gain their cooperation. Put clothes on the wrong body parts, brush their ears and hair instead of teeth,” says Orson, who explains this often helps children forget why they were refusing in the first place.
4. Lavish praise
“Each morning, make sure that you say one positive thing to your child,” suggests Kulaga. “Tell them what they did well during the morning routine, what you were proud of the day before or even something that brings awareness like, ‘You look like you are carrying some extra confidence today for that quiz.’”
And, while you’re at it, remember to praise yourself too: Positive parenting author Kathy Walsh suggests taking time to feel grateful for the person who makes mornings happen in your house—you!
“Make a list of things you like about yourself. Look in the mirror for a full minute and say them out loud,” Walsh says, adding that it may not feel natural, but does help parents channel authentic positivity. And that’s contagious among the other members of the family.
5. Add some music
Parent trainer Katherine Firestone of the Fireborn Institute suggests turning up some uplifting music before you get out the door. Building the playlist may also be a fun activity to do together; just aim to have songs that get increasingly energizing as the morning goes on.
“Towards the end, the music gets faster and your child realizes that it’s time to be gathering materials to leave the house,” she says of the ideal playlist. “The final song is very energetic and means ‘drop everything you are doing and run to the car now.’”
In fact, you should use the same playlist: “Your child will start to develop some time management habits realizing that, based on the song playing, she is behind or ahead of schedule. She can then adjust her pace accordingly. This gives your child autonomy, which is great for having happier, smoother mornings and families.”
“As the playlist is used habitually, your child will start to develop some time management habits, realizing that, based on the song playing, if she is behind or ahead of schedule. She can then adjust her pace accordingly. This gives your child autonomy, which is great for having happier, smoother mornings and families.”
With the right planning (and playlist) every morning can be a positive morning—even Mondays!