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Eliminate Morning Madness With the '3 C's'! Back to School Tips From Dorothy The Organizer

Oversleeping, inappropriate outfits, no interest in breakfast, glued to the screen (computer, TV, phone, whatever), homework incomplete, field trip authorizations still to be signed, no mention of the cool hat for "Friday Hat Day" communicated, a tad grumpy and moving a bit too slow. Yes, it's up to you to get these adorable elves, called children, out the door, on time -- to school.
08/11/2015 04:59pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Oversleeping, inappropriate outfits, no interest in breakfast, glued to the screen (computer, TV, phone, whatever), homework incomplete, field trip authorizations still to be signed, no mention of the cool hat for "Friday Hat Day" communicated, a tad grumpy and moving a bit too slow. Yes, it's up to you to get these adorable elves, called children, out the door, on time -- to school.

Gone are memories of the rustling leaves, the quiet public pool and the school band practicing across the street... these sounds of silence wistfully take you back to another time. Until, you add today's elements such as coaching your daughter's soccer team to division title, holding your son's weekly Internet club meetings in your family room, and adding more minutes to your family's cell phone plan -- and you've arrived back to 21st century reality.

If having to head back to school after summer break wasn't bad enough, the chaos involved with getting ready that first morning of school can be downright overwhelming. Let's address the tips that make the trek back to school a painless experience for parent and child alike.

1. Families with more than one student should emphasize a "team" approach to preparation, with each student individually responsible for their part in achieving the overall goal: getting to school on time and prepared!

There IS a way to be sure your children can own some of the responsibility for their school life and get all of their signed permission forms, fundraising documents, field trip authorizations and carpool arrangements organized during the school year ahead. The secret? Family meetings! Bring all of your family members together (yes, even the toddlers -- so they grow up in the environment) once a week for 20 minutes. I suggest Sunday evenings. Ask each member to bring any necessary news, papers to sign, requests for slumber parties, play dates, or rides to the school dance. This is the perfect time to run through everyone's schedule and get it on the family calendar -- and if the kids are old enough -- for them to enter into their own schedules too.

By having these weekly meetings, you will no longer encounter morning surprises of mismatched uniforms, lost parent authorization forms, or unscheduled pick ups of band members whose parents are out of town. To eliminate the madness in your mornings, learn that it's the family planning meetings which are done IN ADVANCE that will bring you success.

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2. When it comes to learning how to manage morning time for everyone, post three signs or a sheet of paper near the door that say:

  • Early

  • On Time
  • Late
  • Create a game around being on time or early with weekly privileges extended for doing so. Whoever has the most checkmarks in the early column wins! Be careful -- because if YOU have too many "late" check marks on the "late paper" yourself, the kids may just have to ask YOU to make their beds or take out the trash for a week.

    3. Set aside a "School Prep Zone" area (in a hallway, or foyer corner) for each child to put all needed supplies and materials in anticipation of the first day of class. Make sure a clock is clearly visible from that area so students know how much time they have when packing up the first day. Also, decide in advance whether to "roll it" or to "pack it." By that I mean, do your kids take a rolling pack or backpack? Assess the likeliness of their using the selected choice and take notice which is better for your son or daughter's shoulders, back, or arms.

    4. Post five photos of your child in five different outfits inside or next to the closet. Best for the younger set, each outfit can been identified and managed on their own. They see the picture and can recreate the outfit easily.

    5. Discuss your child's image -- with each of them -- what do they want to project? How would they like to be perceived by their friends, teachers, coaches, family? Asking the question allows the parents to understand and support (or improve) their son or daughter's self-view and world view as it relates to dressing, being on time, getting homework done or getting enough sleep.

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    6. Practice the "Three C's." You will be ahead of the game if you clearly communicate the family's CCC plan." CCC is short for "car, computer and cell phone," which are today's most widely used but abused privileges by kids. Communicate your rules on these privileges before school starts. Ground rules are easier to set before all three C's literally take off in their own direction.'

    7. Schedule a "full dress rehearsal" prior to day one. This includes getting up at the real-live appropriate hour, eating breakfast, prepping lunch, getting dressed and walking to the bus stop (or driving to school). This mock run-through will help identify any snags that can be fixed BEFORE the big day. You might even consider posting a morning agenda with all activities broken down into time increments.

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    Dorothy Breininger (aka "Dorothy The Organizer") is America's Most Innovative Professional Organizer. Known to millions as the fearless-yet-endearing problem solver on the Emmy-nominated Lifetime TV series "Hoarders Family Secrets," Dorothy is also the best-selling author of five books, including her latest, Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff. Most recently, she has joined forces with and Zillow.com to produce a series of organizational how-to videos available online now.