At a Glance: For a calm morning with kids, play quiet music, stagger wake-up times and get organized the night before.
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If you have kids you know mornings can be hectic. You’re trying to get a brush through your hair before you rush fussy kiddos out the door. At worst: tears and tantrums. At best: controlled chaos.

So how can busy parents make the morning exit go more smoothly for everyone?

Gloria DeGaetano, founder and CEO of the Parent Coaching Institute and author of “Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human,” offers some helpful tips for making mornings run like clockwork.

A good night = a good morning

Think about morning stress in a broader sense: well-rested kids are happier and more cooperative. “Mornings really begin the night before. Help your kids unwind by turning down lights and shutting off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Try listening to audio books instead. It helps settle them down and gives their minds time to wander.

Parents: Get up first

You might be the type to hit snooze a few times to eek out just a few more minutes of precious zzzs, but try getting up at least 30 minutes before your kids. Make time to have a cup of coffee, have a healthy breakfast, center yourself and simply enjoy the quiet before the craziness of the day begins. Your calm time alone will set a great tone for the rest of the family when they wake up.

Stagger the other wake-up times

If you have more than one child, try staggering wake-up times, starting with the youngest child first. Helping one child at a time will cut down on the chaos and give you a chance to connect with each individual child.

Make it fun and interactive

Create a morning check-off chart so your kids can cross off each step as they complete it: eat breakfast, brush teeth, gather books—all the essential steps for getting out of the house. Use a white board for the chart, or create paper copies, and stick with it. If a chart is not for you, turn getting ready into a game called “countdown to blastoff”: pretend you’re all in a space shuttle and count down from 10 to one. Each number represents another step in the morning process, like nine for ‘wash your face,’ eight for ‘make your bed.’ Kids love it, and it makes mornings fun for everyone.

Get organized

If your house is chaotic, your mornings will be chaotic, too. Use simple organizational tools, such as small cubbies, where each child can store his or her homework and anything else they’ll need for the next day. If kids know where things are, they can gather them quickly.

Play quiet music

Even during the height of the morning rush set up a relaxing atmosphere. Play quiet music, talk in a calm voice. It does wonders for everyone’s mood.

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