When the school year begins, many times there is a deep sense of dread about morning routines, and the constant prodding and pushing to keep the kids moving. For some parents, the morning routine is the worst part of the day. The constant conflict, nagging, and escalating emotions often result in an angry and frustrated goodbye between parents and children as the bus arrives.
And it gets worse, at times, when there is the missed school bus, and mom or dad is late for work—all because there really is no consistent structure to the morning routine. While these ugly starts to the day can be frustrating and challenging, it’s important to know that these struggles can be avoided.
Three strategies for an easeful morning routine
1. Be the leader in preparedness
For some of you, you are yelling from the bathroom, as you try to get dressed while getting the kids out of bed. You are getting ready while pushing them to get ready. If you want an easeful morning routine, this isn’t going to work.
Instead, get up a half-hour earlier, and be prepared and ready to go—before you even try to get the kids going. Yes, I know this is a brain-dead simple suggestion, but it works! No confusing theory or complicated steps.
Just get up a half-hour earlier and be a model of what you want from your kids. Show them how comfortable the morning can be when you are up and well prepared. It makes you so much more resourceful and calm, as you get the ‘herd’ going. Perhaps more importantly, being up and ready gives you the time to focus on the next two habit-changing strategies.
2. Use leverage instead of your voice
In the mornings, I find most parents rely on their voice as the leverage to get kids moving. Over time, this produces more and more tension, and everyone hates that nagging experience as a start to the day.
Yet, 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, computer, phones, TV or playtime with toys and goodies.
Key point: Set up a rule where your kids must be up, dressed, book bag packed, shoes on and ready to go PRIOR to breakfast or entertainment. This means the TV isn’t on, the toy room is closed, and no phone, games or computer in any form BEFORE those morning routines are complete. You can even cheat a little by fixing a wonderful breakfast and allowing yourself to throw it all away, if they aren’t ready on time. Make sure you are there at breakfast and the family energy is at the table—not in their rooms pushing them forward. 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 a couple times. 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!
3. No more nagging, prodding, pushing or yelling!
You are DONE! Under no circumstances do you nag, push, plead, or pull to get them going. Stop all engagement of their procrastinating, moaning and complaining. If they stay in bed, pull the covers off the bed and open the windows. Don’t say a word when doing so. Keep your energy moving forward.
You cannot keep engaging your children (with your attention and energy) for the behaviors that you don’t want—if you want to end up with the behaviors you do want. 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 distracted, you will see more distractibility and more slowing down over the years ahead. It has to happen that way! It’s one of the laws of human behavior! So…
Final insider secret: If your child doesn’t get up on time, they will have to go to bed 30 minutes earlier each day until they get up on time. This is particularly helpful with the oppositional, stubborn child. If they linger in bed, then once up, you remind them that it’s 30 minutes earlier to bed tonight! You must be able to gain control over all the goodies, as this is a critical component at bedtime—so you can shut down their world when it’s bedtime—and not argue with them about it. There is much to learn here, but these are the fundamentals to getting the day started on the right track. Best of luck and have a great year!
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.