In an older issue of Real Simple, there is an article on how to get through the morning with your children. It features a series of vignettes from different families with different challenges. It asks the reader to imagine her morning hours: calm, peaceful and productive. And they show it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

The Meritocracy

One mom’s motto is making the morning fun. After years of pleading with her children to get up and get ready, she settled on something that works. She bought two giant wheels of carnival tickets and made up the rules of the game. The first boy up, dressed and with teeth brushed, got a “premium” ticket. The first to report to the kitchen gets a ticket. Then, on Sunday, they get to trade tickets for small prizes she has purchased. If there is extra time, they sit on the front porch together.

Which moms are putting out little fires, and which are preparing their children for the future?

The Restaurant

In another vignette, a mom spent years struggling with two boys who wanted different things for breakfast, or having to urge them to eat something substantial. Eventually, together with her boys, they created a list of daily specials (waffles, eggs, miso soup, etc.) and posted it on the kitchen wall. The kitchen is open from 6:15 to 6:45 each weekday morning. Like in any restaurant, the boys must follow house rules to get service. No pajamas, and a good attitude. Once breakfast is finished, the boys bus the table, pour leftover water into the houseplants, and scatter crusts for the quail in the yard. Then they gather their books and are off to school.

The Circus-of-Consequences

Another mom likens her morning to a “well-organized organized” three ring circus. Everyone has a job to do and a role to play. At night, the children lay out their school clothes for the next day, including hair ties, and pack their school bags with books, homework, signed permission sheets, etc. Then they line them up, unzipped by the door so that lunches can be added. If lunch is forgotten, the consequence is cafeteria food, which they all dislike.

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Before bedtime, one of the children sets the table for breakfast and puts a vitamin at each place. In the morning, after waking to their own alarm clocks, the children have 15 minutes to wash up, dress and make their beds. If they are not down promptly, they get a protein bar or a banana. That only happened once. After breakfast, two of the girls empty the dishwasher and clear the table.

The Timers

Still another mother got tired of nagging every morning. So she sets timers. She has nine timers set around the house, for the two older boys. Her youngest daughter usually sleeps right through the timers. Now, everybody knows how much time they have. When necessary, she calmly says “The timer went off.”

What Do You Think?

It would be interesting to take a look in a few months to see what’s still working. Which moms’ ideas do you think are more effective? Whose children will benefit in the long-run? Which moms are putting out little fires, and which are preparing their children for the future? Which moms are fishing for their children, and which are teaching their children how to fish?

Found a way to make mornings more sane? Leave a comment below.