“Either you have a pleasant morning or everyone gets to school on time.” 

This saying rings so true in our house. As a single working parent to three amazing humans, MOST days it is an uphill battle to keep everyone organized and out the door ON TIME.

My kids are 10, 7 and 4 in grades 5, 2 and preschool. We have two different school drop offs, carpool, multiple teachers, after-school clubs, tutors, counselors, sports/music lessons and a co-parenting schedule all to juggle each week—not to mention my own work schedule. I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and exercise; then I wake the kids up at 6 a.m., so we can leave the house by 7 a.m. to get to elementary school then preschool, then my office by 8:30 a.m. at the latest. Usually that means breakfast is to-go in the car.

The Tools

We use these ‘bento box’ st‌yle trays that we can pop in granola bars, milk, yogurt, sausages, rolls, etc and each person places it on their lap in the car.

Breakfasts choices are super easy: toasted bagels, pillsbury croissants, frozen waffles and pancakes, etc. We always keep Horizon boxed milk on hand for car-rides. Sometimes those squeeze fruit packs are great, too.

Lunches we use a mix or reusable snack and sandwich baggies and disposable snacks, boxed milk and juices. Kids usually do a pre-pack the night before ( fruit, carrots, snacks, etc) then a sandwich the morning-of.

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Stashed in my car console are these awesome reusable antibacterial Norwex towels that kids use to wipe hands and they can absorb an entire can of soda (amazing!)—and we have wet wipes, too. And don’t forget a garbage bag in the van! I drive a Honda Odyssey so lots of room for “The Stuff,” plus cup holders galore.

We do keep a hand-held vacuum in the car and we keep these handy charcoal odor absorbing tubes spread around to keep things from turning into an absolute scary-van.

Finding Their Motivation

Even with all the prep and tools, my kids were just not getting out of bed on time. I would wake them up, then they would just lay there for 30 minutes until I got super angry. Meanwhile, I was stressed that they wouldn’t have time to pack their lunches or grab breakfast, so I ended up doing ALL of it for them. Which taught them that I would continue to do that, while they slept in. GRRRRR.

We had the pep talk. We had the reminder pep talk. Then the “threatening” pep talk. Then the drill-sergeant pep talk… then the crying pep talk… all by mom, the supposed leader of the family—yeah, it wasn’t working. It was all emotion-based on my end and they knew I was outnumbered. Kids are so intuitive!

I decided to change my strategy. “How can I teach them the consequence of being dependable?” I wondered. They needed to have a fear of letting down THE GROUP if they “forgot” or didn’t do their part. I decided to have the older two split the duties of 1) making lunches for everyone or 2) making breakfast for everyone

They would switch off daily to mix it up and could negotiate the schedule themselves. If someone was lazy, everyone would suffer. This seemed to do the trick for us and motivated the kids to get it in gear!

So, a few weeks in and it’s not perfect, but it takes WAY less pleading to get them up and moving. I just have to say one reminder: “Don’t forget you have lunch-duty or breakfast-duty. Let me know if I can help”—and they’re on it.

I hope you find what works to motivate your crew—and maybe you have gleaned a few tips and tricks from our crazy routine here! Best of luck and just remember to keep trying until you find something that works. Have grace with yourself and your family and know that you are doing better than you think you are.

This post originally appeared on 2ocmoms.wordpress.com.