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8 Ways to Turn a Bad Morning Around

How to improve your family's morning routine

Published on: March 12, 2020

mom helping her child put on a jacket

I thought it was an ordinary Tuesday. A day full of hope and promise for fun and learning. A normal day — until I looked at the clock.

One minute the clock is kind, telling us we have plenty of time to get our people ready and out the door for a new day. Suddenly, it changes, almost screaming at us, “Hurry, hurry, hurry — you’re all going to be late!”

There is the open case of the missing shoe and cereal has been spilled on the floor. A stuck backpack zipper and a forgotten math test. I didn’t even hear myself until I was at least six words into a rant about us always being late and how we can’t keep doing this and where in the world was that missing shoe?

We did what we always do. We let the dog clean up the cereal, I insisted (rather forcefully) on my youngest switching to a different pair of shoes, I started spouting out math facts as I worked on the zipper.

We were getting it done. But none of us were happy. And this was not the way I wanted to send everyone off on their day.

Have you had mornings like this?

A bad morning does not have to mean a bad day. Here are eight ways to turn things around.


Seriously. It helps. Let out all that you’re holding in out and breathe. It sounds so simple, but research shows that focused breathing can change your state of mind, and perhaps that’s the best way to turn things around.

Pick one thing.

Many of us wear our multitasking crowns with pride; after all, we are parents and there is so much to get done. Multitasking is often counter-intuitive, making us less productive because we are unable to organize information well. Plus, it increases stress hormones in the body.

When things are going badly, the one thing we don’t need is stress. So, pick one thing you can do, say, address the broken zipper. And then move on to the next. Find a shoe solution. Picking one thing at a time and working through your micro-emergency list in a serial fashion will help you get more done and with less stress for everyone involved.


Being honest goes a long way, especially with kids. They know you’re upset just by a look or the tone of your voice. It is okay to tell them the morning isn’t going well. It’s good for them to see that we can identify things that aren’t ideal.

Saying something such as, “Boy this morning is not going the way I hoped it would. Could we turn it around together?” shows your child that you recognize how things are and that you need their help to make the situation better. Let them be an active participant in turning things around. You’re giving them useful skills for later in life.

And while you are at it, get them in the habit of prioritizing and serializing the task list instead of frantically trying to do five things at a time. Think aloud: “Alright, let’s see how we can go about this. First the broken zipper. Then the shoe. And on the way to school we can look at those math facts.”


This one feels hard for a lot of us because it means we are human and we are admitting it to our children. I’ll let you in on a secret: They already know.

Saying you’re sorry for the sharp way you spoke to them or the way you tossed all the shoes out of the shoe bin shows that it’s okay to make mistakes. Plus, it will help you let go of any mistakes and move on. Kids are usually a pretty forgiving bunch.


Take 30 seconds and have everyone freeze. Stop looking for the shoe. Stop cleaning up the cereal. Stop huffing around the house. We have 86,400 seconds in a day. Surely, we can spare 30 to regroup.

If you feel up for it, do a few deep belly breaths together. Or get everyone to do a 30-second wiggle to shake off the harried feeling. Once they get past the shock of actually stopping the frantic rush to beat the clock and start doing something fun instead, they will likely start giggling. Laughter releases stress and you will all be in better shape to take your morning back.

Anything that will let you create a pause in the frantic downhill slide of the morning and turn it around into a playful happy one again is fair game.

Be grateful.

It may sound cliché, and it may be the last thing you’d think of doing, but that’s part of why it works. Think of something you are grateful for, right in that hot-mess moment. Better yet, put words to it. Out loud. You can shift those feelings of stress and a lack of control just by being grateful.

The easiest one that works every time? “I’m grateful for you.” Not only will it change your mood, but it will change your child’s mood. The day will be looking better already.

Another one I love (because it also lets me expend all that I-must-rant-now energy): “Boy, this morning is rough and we’re all being such goofballs. But am I glad I have you goofballs to share the morning with. What a sad, sad thing it would be to be a goofball, and be all alone on top of it all. I do so love my family of goofballs!”

“Goofballs” is what works for my family. Pick anything else that gets the giggles out of your family and go all out with it!

Be late.

Before I say anything else you should know, I hate to be late. I’m the person who considers on time 15 minutes early.

But the truth is, it is okay to be a few minutes late now and again. What’s the worst that can happen?

Your kids will be late to school and perhaps get a tardy slip. Let them. They will learn to make better choices and will be motivated to get out of the house early next time without you having to nag them.

You will be a few minutes late to work. So be it. You will choose to wake up a little earlier tomorrow. Or you will learn to be better organized. Or you may just learn that it really isn’t that big of a deal to be late once in a while and learn to lighten up.

Whatever your conclusion, everyone is learning something important.

So, take a deep breath and say out loud for the benefit of everyone involved: “Alright, we’re going to be late today. We’ll deal with the consequences, learn from them and try not to let it happen again in the future. Deal?”

Hug it out.

Whatever happened and whatever is to come, hug your kids. Taking a moment to hug your child helps bring stress levels down and secures the foundation for what really matters to you. You love your child. Choosing that moment, even in all the busy chaos, reminds you both how important you are to one another.

Making space for these eight tips will turn even the craziest morning around. But what if you think it’s too late? What if the kids are already on the bus or you’re sitting at your desk wishing things had gone differently? There is still hope.

Here are three bonus tips for when you think it’s too late:

  • Head to your child’s school if possible, or call and ask to speak to them. Showing up or calling with an apology and a hug will help both of you have a much better day.
  • Set aside time for after school and work to be together. Go for a walk, color, snuggle or watch a movie. Be sure to say out loud, “I’m sorry we had a rough morning. I wanted to make sure it did not come between us and you still know that I love you no matter what.”
  • Spend a few minutes together before bed. If bedtime is usually rushed, climb in next to them and just be together for a few minutes. It may lay the foundation for a better start to the morning tomorrow.

On average, there are 180 days in a school year. Each of your kids will be in school for 12 years. That makes 2,160 mornings with the potential to be rushed and harried. And I’m not even counting multiple kids, day-care days, summer camps and whatnot. Bad mornings will happen … it’s a given. But you can turn it around for you and your kids so you will all have a better day!

The two-minute action plan for fine parents

Ask yourself a few questions about how bad mornings affect you and your kids.

  • In the last week, how many mornings felt rough? Can you notice anything in common about those days?
  • What would your ideal morning look like? How can you move toward that?
  • How can you take care of yourself so you can be better prepared when hard mornings happen?
  • What triggers or obstacles can be eliminated from those rushed morning minutes?
  • How often are you successful at rescuing a morning that has started going downhill and still go on to have a great day?

The ongoing action plan for fine parents

Over the next few days, get in the habit of:

  • Recognizing as early as possible when the morning has started to slip away from you.
  • Pledging to not let a bad morning turn into a bad day.
  • Giving grace to your kids and yourself!
  • Experimenting with different ways to salvage your morning and find what works for your family.
  • And last but not the least, if you don’t have a well-established morning routine, make that your highest priority. An established morning routine significantly reduces the chances of having “bad” mornings in the first place!

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