I have a couple of friends who are morning people. They jump right out of bed and embark on their day without any hesitation. They donít throw their alarm clocks across the room. They donít rearrange their whole morning schedule just to get an extra 20 minutes.
Now, imagine being a child, who must go to school for eight hours. Short attention spans collide with the dread of math and science ó and you end up with a kiddo who procrastinates on every morning activity. Thus, parents and children alike are running behind and stressed to the max.
Morning routine stress is a common problem, especially if you have more than one child in the mix. You may be really unlucky and have a kiddo who throws the dreaded Morning Meltdown. Rather than ensuing in power struggles or constant nagging, parents can set up the morning in a way that reduces some of the stress ó and reduces the likelihood of tantrums.
First, the most obvious answer is to do as much as you can prior to the morning. Pack lunches, lay out lunch money, choose the dayís worth of clothes, get book bags packed and get homework placed in its proper place. Determine your childís options for breakfast the night before and lay out the materials. If possible, talk about decisions the night before, too. If your child wants a braid rather than a pony tail, you can make sure thereís an extra few minutes to do so.
Second, give yourself enough time in the morning. This is my mantra. I know that if I get up early, I can complete everything I need to and set myself up for a less stressful afternoon. Iím not usually successful, but if I had the pressure of children, I probably would be better. I wouldnít have a choice. Even an extra ten minutes can be beneficial. Then, do your best to budget the time you do have with your children. Make sure thereís enough time for them to do what you expect them to do, or youíre just setting both of you up for failure.
Further, allow your kiddo as many choices as possible. Allow them to choose breakfast, clothing, shoes, and if possible, let them determine the order in which they complete morning tasks. Checklists are ideal for children because they allow for structure and they are fun to complete.
You can use the chart at the following website: http://printables.familyeducation.com/parenting-problem-solving/parenting/62773.html. The website, www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com, also has plenty of morning routine charts. Place it somewhere that will be visible ó like the bedroom or bathroom ó and explain what you expect your child to do. Talk about how they can get this all done and give advice on the most logical route to completing their tasks.
Now, thatís not to say your children wonít need prompting and encouragement. They are kids. Getting off task is their specialty. Help them keep focused on what needs completed and provide plenty of praise as your child follows through. If your childís able to be ready to go with time to spare, treat him or her with some one-on-one time if you are able. Watch a few minutes of TV or spend extra time brushing hair or painting nails.
Third, if your child struggles to get out of bed more than what is typical, it may be time to allow natural consequences to unfold. Make bed time earlier for a child who seems to resist waking up more than usual. If your child frequently gets caught up watching TV or playing in the morning, allow the consequences of this to occur naturally. If he forgets his homework, donít go to the rescue and drop it off. Though these lessons are toughest for parents, they are the best way to teach children.
Additionally, it may be wise to have your children brush their teeth, get dressed, do their hair and wash up prior to even coming out of the bedroom or bathroom. This is much easier than trying to divide time between hygiene tasks, book bag checks and breakfast. This way, they wonít be running back and forth to get everything ready.
For the child who really struggles to focus on morning routine, create a positive reinforcement behavior chart or develop a system in which she gets a check every time she gets off track in the morning. After three or so, the child has a consequence. Try to do this without scolding or fighting. Consequences donít have to be heavy with emotion ó just let your child know the infraction and what the discipline method is. Try to ignore any attempts at power struggling or arguing.
Also, make sure there isnít a reason your child is putting off school in the morning. Most kids will find a way to mess around until they are bordering on late, but it doesnít hurt to assure there isnít something deeper beneath it. Talk with your kiddo and determine whether there are bullies, social issues, teacher conflicts, concerns about a particular subject or something else entirely going on. Charts and consequences will not do your child any good if the problem is that heís embarrassed about being behind in math or reading.
Likewise, if you take your children to school in the mornings, use that time to prepare them for the day. Keep the conversation light and focus on the positive. Donít lose those few minutes to music or talk radio. Take advantage of the one-on-one time. On that note, prepare healthy breakfasts and lunches for your kids. This is another obvious method to set your child up for success.
Lastly, if your child does succumb to the theatrical Morning Meltdown, try your best not to overreact. Donít reinforce the behavior by giving it too much attention. Rather, encourage your child to go to his or her room and calm down. Donít chastise the crying, just allow her to cool off on her own time. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep and that there arenít any other dynamics at play causing the tantrums. Validate feelings and praise good behavior once the tantrum has ended.
Finally, once theyíre dropped off or loaded on the bus, take a note from my book and take a quick nap or meander over your coffee for an extra few minutes. Hit snooze. Go for an extra cup of java.
Remember, the world will still be there, waiting for you when youíre ready to go. I know it because Iím currently 20 minutes behind and havenít even made it to Starbucks yet.
Perhaps behavior charts are good for adults, too?
Published: August 31, 2012