Of the many questions that I receive, one of the most frequent concerns expressed by parents stems from the problems experienced while getting children up and out of the house in the morning. Over the years, I have refined a group of highly effective strategies to assist parents with even the most challenging and resistant children.
For some parents, the morning routine is the worst part of the day. The constant conflict, nagging and prodding, and escalating emotions often result in an angry and frustrated goodbye between parents and children as the bus arrives. Worse yet: The frustrated kiss goodbye occurs after the parents have transported the children to school because the kids have missed the bus, and parents are late for work.
This is frustrating and challenging and can be relatively easily avoided. However, it does take some planning and extra effort initially to get all the pieces in place.
Before you get started…consider this first.
Helpful Hint: Get up a half-hour earlier.
This is the simplest suggestion I can offer. No confusing theory or complicated steps.
Just get up a half-hour earlier and model what you want from your kids. Show them how comfortable the morning can be when you are up and well prepared.
This allows you the opportunity to be paying attention to the parts of their world that is going well. This simple preparatory commitment allows you the chance to easily follow the six-step plan that follows.
Six Steps to Mastering the Morning Routine
As you read the suggestions below, many of you are going to cringe in fear that it is just not going to work. You’re going to be afraid that your kids will never get out of bed and that things will only deteriorate.
Having worked with many, many families, I want to encourage you to have faith. These are proven principles that will motivate and move children forward, and they are embedded throughout this set of strategies.
If you find that morning routines are truly draining the life out of your mornings and the joy out of your day, you will want to get started with the suggestions below. You may also discover that the complete program, Morning Routines Made Easy, will walk you through every detail and answer every question you have. In less than an hour, I will guide you through a specific program that has worked time and time again. For now, read the plan below and get started now on a calmer, more predictable morning routine.
Follow these principles and be patient. It will turn around!
1. Have a preparatory meeting with your children.
Tell your kids you’re done! You’re tired of waking them up, herding them through the morning routine, and treating them like they’re all three-year-olds.
Let them know that you’ll no longer do that, and that they each now have an alarm clock, and that you’ll make certain (depending on their age) that the alarm is set the night before.
Let them know that you’ll also be in to greet them with a “Good Morning”, once they have arisen. However, it will be their job to get out of bed.
End of story. Say it as you mean it. There is great power in taking a strong and definitive position.
2. No more free rides.
Let them know if they miss the bus, it is their responsibility to get to school. You will not take them freely and easily, and will not be responsible for getting them to school. You will not write notes.
(If this is not workable due to the distance to your school, or your child’s young age, then let them know that you will take them to school when it is convenient for you.)
If they miss the bus, do not have a discussion or repeated lectures with them. If you must transport them, take them to school somewhat late, so that they must deal with the consequence without an excuse from you as a parent. Make the consequence something that they begin to feel.
If you must transport the kids to school, you will do so on your time. They have to wait for you. Then, at the time you need to leave, let the kids know you are leaving, ready or not. NO YELLING OR PRODDING.
3. Use what leverage you do have.
In the mornings, I find that parents have two types of leverage that they rarely use. The first is breakfast, and the second is some form of entertainment, such as video games or TV or playtime.
Set up a rule where your kids must be up, dressed, book bag packed, shoes on, and ready to go before breakfast or entertainment. You can even cheat a little by fixing a wonderful breakfast and allowing yourself to throw it all away if they aren’t ready. Be patient with this, and repeat.
The TV doesn’t come on and breakfast isn’t served until your son or daughter is ready to go to school. If they have to go to school hungry, because they get up late and miss breakfast, just let that occur. Trust me, this natural consequence is important to them, and they will remember that tomorrow. For some kids, missing breakfast is no big deal. Just relax and stick to the plan. Don’t let their attitude throw you off!
Let them know they can watch a little TV, play video games, etc., once they are ready and not before. Then, be patient! This is a learning process, and as such, you must exercise patience while your children learn to make healthy choices. You can learn more about how to manage leverage here Morning Routines Made Easy.
4. Use other consequences.
For many parents, they end up taking more responsibility for their children getting to school, than the child does. As children move through later elementary and into middle school, this becomes more and more problematic. Children must be taking more responsibility for their success than they are. If it feels the other way around, you know you’re headed down a more troublesome path.
So what can you do?
You can add other consequences if they are not getting up in time to catch the bus. Any afternoon or evening activities that they enjoy are immediately removed. In other words, if they are late for school in the morning, they don’t go to soccer practice, participate in karate, or watch their favorite TV shows that afternoon and evening.
It is their only requirement in the morning that they get up and get to school. You as a parent then must provide some consequence to the child, if they do not follow through with this single requirement.
Keep in mind: When the next day begins, it’s a new day. There are no “carry over” consequences based upon what occurred yesterday in the morning routine. The consequence needs to be given in the morning, as you inform your child – “No soccer and no TV tonight.” No lecture; just clear feedback on the consequences of their actions.
And make sure the consequences are something that they FEEL! Make it so that your children KNOW that missing the bus, or getting out late, will lead to severe restrictions on their activity in the afternoon and evening. The essential key here is that your kids HEAR THIS in the morning WHILE they are leaving late. Don’t dance around their possible upsets because you have taken a clear stance on this.
5. No more nagging! You are DONE!
Under no circumstances do you nag, push, plead, or pull. Stop all engagement of their lollygagging around. Ignore their moaning and complaining. Ignore their lying in bed.
You cannot keep engaging your children for the behaviors that you want to see disappear. Yelling at them while they are in bed, or complaining repeatedly about how slow they are, or pulling them through each phase of the morning only serves to worsen the very habits that you want to change. If you keep engaging them for being slow and disinterested, you will see more and more slowing down over the years ahead. It has to happen that way! It’s one of the laws of human behavior! So…..
Allow the consequence of their actions to be the teacher. Not your words.
6. Catch the moments of preparing for school.
Once you are up early and prepared, it allows you the opportunity to notice moments of your kids putting on their clothes, brushing their hair, washing their face, making their bed, etc.
Just notice them when they are doing what you want them to do. Hug them. Say good morning. Ask about their day. A light touch on the shoulder. Comment on breakfast.
Catch them while they are getting ready and ignore the rest!
And DON’T falls into the trap of saying repeatedly what a good job they are doing. This becomes stale and meaningless. Just keep engaging them in small, almost unnoticeable ways, while remaining happy, smiling and grateful for their efforts.
There you have it. A set of very simple steps that, when followed consistently, will teach your children to get up and make it through the morning routine more easily.
Note again: It is essential NOT to engage in prodding, pushing, encouraging, and reminding your children. Stay away from this at all costs, because it is a major part of what is maintaining the problem.
Instead, wait for your kids to show you more of what you want. In other words, when they begin to get out of their bed and start to get ready for school, drop in, have a brief conversation with them, say good morning, talk about the day, and engage them in brief conversations while they are getting themselves ready for school. Give a good-morning pat on the back, or a brief hug. Keep catching them WHILE they are doing what you want. This WILL GROW over the weeks ahead.
If you find your kids are more than a bit challenging, you may want to consider the full program, Morning Routines Made Easy. This program is available in CD form, or you can download an audio file right now and get started immediately. To learn more about this detailed program, click here Morning Routines Made Easy.