How to simplify the family's morning and bedtime routine

Jan 12, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. ET

Are your kids having a hard time with mornings and there isn't enough coffee in the world to fix it? Do you dread bedtime with a fiery passion and think the "witching hour" lives up to its name?


Here are some fresh ideas on how you can have joy-filled mornings and get your family to wind down and into bed without a fight.

End well

MoonThe key to starting a day off right is ending a day right. Consider it crucial to your day that you stick to your kids' bedtime routine, but include their bedtime routine inside your own evening routine as well.

If you end the day with a clean kitchen, toys put away and lunches prepared, the next morning will be hugely different.

Set out clothes at night so you aren't searching for the perfect pants when you should be heading out the door. Your peaceful attitude will spread to the kids and their moods lifting will help you be more efficient. Win-win!

Choose a trigger

Missing a bedtime routine will usually make it so the kids don't even know when to wind down. The biggest reason a bedtime routine works is that the kids know what comes next, they know what to expect and their minds are "triggered" that it's time to wind down. Without that trigger? They most likely won't wind down at all, and bedtime will be a nightmare (and kids will stay awake!).

Because the routines establish expectations and not a timed schedule -- you can stick to a bedtime routine no matter what time it ends or begins.

Read more on how to help your kids fall asleep at night >>

Be the beacon, frame the day

Remember that you are the beacon of light for your children, as sappy as that sounds. They follow your lead, and if you aren't sticking to your own routines, they will resist any you implement as well.

They want loving limits and crave a rhythm. Are you framing the day with peaceful flow or are you, in the name of flexibility, allowing everything to get out of control? Pause and reflect on the current state and decide where you can tighten up the routines.

Make it good enough

Sleeping ChildRemember that your routines simply need to be good enough -- not perfect. The goal with family routines is for everyone to be at ease enough to have things where you can find them when you need them, and to enjoy quality time together.

Simple ideas can take you far -- just keep things manageable and simple and the days might just start to feel effortless!

More on a having a well-run household

How to get your children up in the morning
10 tips on getting your children out the door
How to make family chore lists