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Rest assured that this is the normal scenario in households across America—yes, even in The Productivity Pro’s house—trust me. But you can plan for this witching hour and do something about it once you know what the patterns are.

Because John is the chef in our family and is busy cooking dinner at our witching hour, it makes sense for me to pick up the boys from daycare. With Meagan having returned on the school bus, it also makes sense for her to drive with me and download her day so she isn’t competing for attention with the boys at home. Since they’re hungry and cranky when they get home, it makes sense to pick them up at 5:00 instead of 4:45 so they can eat a snack with the class. Once we get home, Meagan sets the table and helps John while I take the boys to another part of the house, connect with them, and keep them occupied. Once John rings the dinner bell and we sit down to eat, our entire household mellows out.

From evening to bedtime. Perhaps bedtime is your battle, trying to do baths, brush teeth, read books, and get everyone ready for the morning. When it comes to bedtime, a consistent routine is the best way for kids to transition from awake to asleep. Don’t wait until they say they’re sleepy—it may be too late! Start their bedtime routine at the same time each night, and use a checklist to remind and guide them through the process. Set aside at least 30 minutes every night so you don’t have to rush. Even before your kids can read, you can use a checklist using pictures and stickers. Our kids each have two checklists of activities they must complete—one for the morning and one for the evening. We simply have to say, “Do your checklist,” and most of the time (many times with encouragement and reminders like “where are you on your checklist?”) things get done without repeating the message ten million times—and getting frustrated doing so.

You can even put timed deadlines on each one activity so they know where they should be in the one hour of time designated to get out the door. At first, give rewards for making the deadlines. After a while, start to use penalties: e.g., miss more than two deadlines and you lose your television time.

Here is a sample checklist to get you started and modify to meet your needs. This list was created when my daughter was in first grade (obviously, they change as the child gets older, although some older children still need reminders to flush!).

If you’d like to have electronic copies of these checklists, visit www.TheProductivityPro.com and look for “Free Stuff” under the “Resources” menu.

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