Four Parent Hacks for a nag-less morning routine

Have you met Vanessa Van Petten? Talk about "most likely to succeed!" She’s an incredibly motivated blogger about the teen perspective and the author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!” I first came across her writing in a guest post at Zen Habits and have been following her ever since. Vanessa was kind enough to write up a guest post for Parent Hacks…her tips for getting through those rushed school day mornings. — Asha

Every morning my mom officially declares war on: the alarm clock, then my sister, then my dad and then the toaster. You never know what to expect during my family’s get-ready-for-school-routine and the only ‘routine’ thing about it is that it usually involves a lot of yelling and nagging.

We actually miraculously managed to stop this terrible cycle by adding a few simple ‘parent hacks’ and I wanted to share them so you too can save your relationships, your day and your voice (if you are anything like my mom):

Nightly Routine: What can your family take out of the morning routine that will make it easier or shorter? Make a nightly routine to lessen the chores for the morning. My family packed our lunches and our backpacks at night and always put them by the door. When we said goodnight, we had to take our backpacks downstairs.

Launching Pad: We created a part of our house (the laundry room connected to the garage) that was our ‘launching pad.’ This is where we put everything that we needed to take out the door with us. Everyone in our family has a little basket and a ‘mailbox.’ This way, every night we would put our lunchbox, water bottle, sports bag, backpack, science project etc, right at our basket so we would not forget or rush around the next morning. Also when we got home from school we could take permission slips or fliers for mom/dad out of our backpack right away and into their ‘mailbox.’

Checklist: Make a laminated checklist to put at the launching pad with what everyone should have before they leave. Use big print and you can even make one for each family member.

Mine was something like this, and it made it easy because my mom did not have to nag me because she could just point to the list.

___Water bottle
___Lunch box
___Softball bag
___PE class bathing suit
___PE class towel
___(SAT Book- if you have tutoring)

Kitchen Timer System: My sisters and I realized that we had become dependent on my mom and dad’s nagging from downstairs to gauge our time. We always knew that the first “get-up” meant: you have five more minutes to sleep, the second ‘wake-up’ meant get-up and actually get ready, the third ‘hurry-up’ meant start to pack your things…well you get the idea. So, to spare the yelling and make us less dependent on their ‘hurry-ups’ we came up with a system.

  • Decide with your family how much time it takes to get ready (for us: 6:45am wake-up, 20 minutes until breakfast, 15 minutes until the bus).
  • Have mom or dad wake everyone up at the agreed upon time (6:45) and then immediately set a kitchen timer up with the amount of time it takes to get ready (20 minutes). Everyone should be downstairs eating breakfast before the first timer ring goes off. If we were late by 5 minutes, we had to get up earlier (at 6:40) the next day, if we were early by 5 minutes we got to get up later (6:50) the next day.
  • Then the timer was set-up again for breakfast and bus pick-up time (15 minutes).

I like this system because it saved my mom and dad a lot of yelling and the incentive system (to beat the ringer) was built in because it meant more sleep time the next day if we could speed up.

I hope that these tips work for your family as they did for mine, please do stop by my site to see my other hacks for parents and kids!

Related: Kitchen timer: Multi-purpose tool of the gods!


  1. says

    Great tips. We don’t have a teen (yet) but we do at least a modified version of most of these tips, although I realize now that there is a lot of room for improvement.

    Our “launchpad” tends to move around, I like your idea of having it fixed and with a basket to put everything in.

    Our kitchen timer is usually my wife yelling out “10 more minutes!” so the timer that we used to have for time out (and sometimes even for cooking) could probably be repurposed now.

    The checklist is probably the most important because we still have a baby. A teen can do without or overcome forgetting some things, but if we forget baby food or diapers for example then we have a phone call coming and have to miss work to fix the omission.

    thanks for the great tips!

    John (Pop) at

  2. says

    The timer tip is priceless! Our kids are pre-teens, but still take what seems like an hour from the time their feet hit the floor until they finally drag themselves to the kitchen table for breakfast. Maybe I’ll implement this little hack to get them moving.

  3. Mrs. Flanagan says

    I have a five year old and a one year old! I love our timers. We set 15 mins. on the timer before bed time. That is after getting ready for bed Baths and all. The kids have 15 mins. settle down time in their rooms – by themselves to play or do a calm activity. When their room timer goes off they go to bed without fuss. I have found this settles their bodies and spirits for an easier time of going to sleep. Then we tuck in.

  4. says

    Our school-ager goes to school with sullied teeth, but we have had good luck with re-arranging the morning routine to put breakfast last. We have wake-up, make bed, get dressed, brush and wash, backpack and then breakfast last.

  5. says

    This post made me smile, my mom used a kitchen timer for everything. Her favorite and the one I use most with my small children now is the “5 minute Quick Clean-up.” It seems like we had to do this at least once daily.

  6. says

    Brilliant! My newly turned teenage son is pretty good at getting up but is quite forgetful i.e. leaves his homework in the printer, forgets his saxophone or music, forgets his lunch…The checklist should be just the trick and since we don’t have a mudroom, he can pack all his stuff the night before and put it right by the door so that he’ll trip over it if he forgets it! Thanks for the tips :)

  7. says

    This is tremendous because the KID came up with it and acted upon it with parents help. As a teacher, I can tell you how far teens can fall behind in school if they routinely come in late. Late arrivers make me *nuts*