This post is part of Principle 5: Grow your foundation. While Management Through Leadership emphasizes caring for others, prioritizing self-care is equally important. This category encompasses various topics related to personal development, including but not limited to health, fitness, parenting, finances, education, career growth, stress management, and relationships.
Picture this: it’s 6:30 AM, and your alarm clock is blaring in your ear like a jackhammer. You stumble out of bed, only to be greeted by chaos and commotion as you try to get your kids ready for school and the day. Sound familiar?
As parents, one of our primary goals is to raise happy kids. Antifragile kids, a term made up by Nassim Taleb. We want them to be confident, healthy, and successful in all aspects of their lives. But it can feel like an uphill battle.
Calm and mostly predictable mornings and bedtimes can play a significant role in achieving this goal.
After six kids and years of experience, my wife Brandi and I have found that establishing consistent routines has transformed our family’s daily life. I want to share our experience and discuss why calmness and leveraging the morning and bedtime times are so important for kids.
Now you might ask me: What the heck does this have to do with Management Through Leadership? I say: Everything! Ok, not everything, but a lot. Calm mornings, and happy kids, will lead to a calm and happy leader at work.
what does calmness have to do with raising happy kids
The mornings and bedtimes are two of the most important times of day for our children. They set the tone for the rest of the day and can greatly impact our children’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When kids start their day feeling rushed, stressed, or overwhelmed, it can lead to a domino effect of negative outcomes. Likewise, when kids go to bed feeling stressed, anxious, or upset, it can interfere with their sleep and affect their mood the following day.
On the other hand, when kids start their day feeling calm and centered, they are more likely to be focused, productive, and positive throughout the day. When they go to bed feeling calm and happy, they are more likely to sleep well and wake up refreshed and ready for a new day.
There are so many studies that back this idea. Here’s one from the NY State University at Albany: Daily Routines Impact Childhood Development.
Back to reality for a minute
Implementing a consistent morning and bedtime routine for kids can be daunting, especially for parents who have had a long day at work and come home to the chaos of dinner and homework.
Single parents can find it even more challenging to take on these responsibilities alone. And on top of that, there are days when kids have had a rough day at school and may not be in the mood to cooperate.
Like many of us, I’ve been working from home these last 3-4 years. I’ve felt like my days and nights are connected. From kids to work to kids to sleep and repeat.
But by trying to achieve these routines as often as possible, even if it’s not daily, parents can help create a more peaceful and enjoyable home environment for everyone involved.
Here are a few routines that my wife Brandi and I have been trying:
- Keep it consistent: The first routine is create a routine. Consistency is key when it comes to bedtime routines. Sticking to the same routine every night, so your child knows what to expect and can start associating these activities with sleep. For example, you might start with a bath, then have your child put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and read a story before turning out the lights.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that children with consistent bedtime routines had better sleep outcomes and fewer behavioral problems than those who did not have a consistent routine.
- Start early: One of our biggest mistakes as parents in bedtime routines is waiting until the last minute to start winding down. For example, if you’re trying to get your child into bed at 8 pm, you can start the bedtime routine around 7 pm. This will give your child plenty of time to relax and unwind before it’s time to sleep.
- Use calming activities: As you’re winding down for bed, try incorporating calming activities to help your child relax and feel ready for sleep. This usually includes things like reading a book and listening to soothing music. You can also tell the kids repeatedly that now is a calm time. No more running around.
We started the whole reading-a-book routine from day 1. Seven years later, the twins can’t sleep without reading a book. We try to find them engaging and fun books they are interested in reading.
Again, it’s leveraging the power of habits and routines. It’s hard because the activity has to become a routine for the parents and the kids.
- This is also an amazing time to teach: The bedtime routine is a great opportunity to talk to your child about things you’d like them to learn or go over things that happened during the day. This is my favorite time of the day to talk to my kids. The calm mind and body make them more receptacle to listening 🙂
One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to notice something I like/want them to do and tell them about it at bedtime. Acts of courage are one of them. For example, we signed them up for muay thai lessons. Days before their first lesson, they were nervous and did not want to go. We kept explaining that feeling nervous is normal, but they will love it once they overcome their fears.
After a couple of lessons, they were doing great. We talked about it at bedtime for a few nights, highlighting how brave they were and how they should be proud of themselves. Now they want to arrive early before every session.
Here are a few things to say at bedtime that can create a stronger connection with your kids:
– You worked really hard on …. today, I’m so proud of you.
– You kept trying and did not giving on … It will keep getting easier.
– I noticed you did this nice thing for your brother today. That was great!
– Is there anything you’d like me to help you with?
– Is there something you’d like me to know?
– You can always share or ask me anything.
– Nothing will change how much I love you.
- Wake up early: Just as it’s important to start the bedtime routine early, it’s also important to start the morning routine early. Try to get yourself ready before your child wakes up, so you can start the day feeling calm and centered.
Easier said than done 🙂 Especially since you spent the previous night doing homework, cooking dinner, bedtime, cleaning up…
- Eat a healthy breakfast together: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and ensure your child gets a healthy, non-sugary breakfast to start their day off right.
Dr. Robert Lustig is a well-known pediatric endocrinologist who has written extensively on the negative effects of sugar consumption, particularly for children. In his book “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease,” dr. Lustig argues that the overconsumption of sugar is a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems in both children and adults. A breakfast high in protein is a better option, with whole foods and limiting processed food.
I highly recommend listening to his numerous talks, starting with his Google Talk.
Try to eat breakfast together as a family, and make it a relaxing and enjoyable time. You might even use this time to discuss what your child has planned for the day.
It might go without saying, but no screen time in the morning is a good idea. We used to let them watch some TV while eating breakfast. It was not a good idea: They didn’t want to stop when it was time to leave for school; they took their sweet time finishing their breakfast. Just bad on many levels. We have since switched to reading books or playing with miniature toys while eating breakfast. The best case scenario is when we all can have breakfast together and talk and laugh.
- Get ready together: Instead of rushing around to get everyone ready, try to get together as a family. This might mean having your child pick out their clothes the night before or having them help you make lunches for the day. By working together, you can make the morning routine a positive and stress-free experience for everyone involved.
We’ve discovered that preparing clothes and packing part of their lunch the night before can be great time-savers, giving you more time to focus on implementing morning routines that I’ve shared with you.
- Do something fun: Finally, incorporate something fun into your morning routine. This might be as simple as playing a quick game of “I Spy” on the way to school or taking a few minutes to do a physical activity like going for a short walk or playing catch. When you find an activity that the kids love to do, you can use it to motivate them to get ready quickly so you can have more time to do the fun stuff.
By starting the day with fun, you can help your child feel happy and energized for the day ahead.
The mornings and bedtimes are two of the most important times of day for raising happy kids. By creating calm routines around these times, we can help our children feel happy, healthy, and successful in all aspects of their lives.
We can create calm and positive routines for our children in many ways through consistent bedtime routines, calming activities before bed, healthy breakfasts, or fun morning activities. By doing so, we can help them start and end their day on the right foot and hope for the best from there.
Thank you so much for reading!