How to Teach Accountability and Get to School On Time: A Strategy for Smooth Mornings


It’s 7:03 on a Wednesday morning, and you must leave the house by 7:10 to get the kids to school on time. You recite a familiar list of commands to anyone within shouting distance while sweeping the breakfast crumbs off the counter and zipping up the last backpack. Five minutes go by, and now it’s crunch time. But your oldest never packed his lunch, your middle needs help finding her shoe, and your little guy forgot to brush his teeth. You’re going to be late–again.

What if this familiar weekday scene that plays out in homes across the country had a different ending? Instead of mom leading the charge of unprepared troops to inevitable tardiness, what if the recruits took control of organizing their morning?

It sounds like a dream. But smooth mornings can become your reality with a little shift in accountability. 

Often, the root issue of the chaos is the inability of younger children to follow multi-step verbal commands. (Yes, even if they are the SAME commands every morning.) A long to-do list, including multiple tasks in varying locations throughout the house, can feel overwhelming and lead to forgetfulness. By the time you reach task #3 (brush your teeth), they’ve already forgotten task #1 (get dressed) and definitely aren’t listening to task #5 (put your shoes on). Your litany of early morning requests sounds like a long, run-on sentence. 

The solution lies in organization and prioritization. You can encourage and empower your little ones to own their morning routines by breaking down complex commands into visible and actionable steps.

The Post-It Note Strategy teaches kids how to prioritize tasks and take responsibility for their “jobs.” 

If there are five steps to the morning routine, write each task on a post-it note and stick it on the fridge in the order it must be accomplished. For example:

  • Note #1 – Get dressed
  • Note #2 – Eat breakfast
  • Note #3 – Brush your teeth
  • Note #4 – Put lunch box in your backpack
  • Note #5 – Put shoes on

This activity provides three essential elements: clarity, responsibility, and achievement. The post-it note is removed when a task is completed and the next step becomes clear. The visible and orderly instructions are easy to follow and can be revisited as often as needed to remember what comes next. Because the list belongs to the child, they are responsible for each item. Kids want to be successful, and each Post-It note removed represents a win. And once the notes are all removed, it’s time to head to school. 

It’s also a win for mom. Less time yelling out commands means more time enjoying your coffee. (It will still require multiple warm-ups in the microwave, though.)

This strategy can be adjusted to reflect the ages of your children. For smaller kids who can’t read, replace the words with pictures (toothbrush, apple, shoe, etc.). For kids needing additional clarity within the larger tasks, each Post-It note can contain two or three short bullet points (Get dressed: shirt, pants, socks). Older kids can create lists or write items on a whiteboard in their room. 

Organization and prioritization are lifelong skills that can be taught early and reinforced by consistent practice. And if less stressful mornings are the byproduct of this new routine, Post-Its may need a line item in the monthly budget.

You’re already awesome! If you’re ready to discover your child’s true learning style, take this quick quiz! On top of that, I’ll give you tips to help transform their mindset, so they can succeed at school.

About the Writer: Loretta Holmes, M.A. is a special education teacher turned Educational Therapist and ADHD Life Coach. She is the owner of Bella Coaching Services and has a passion for supporting little humans, teens, and families with ADHD and learning challenges.

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