Now that children are back in school, some familiar concerns are showing up in my office. One of the most common is difficulty getting children out the door to school in the morning. Parents find themselves nagging, scolding, and threatening, and still the behavior remains the same. Sometimes it gets worse as the children get angry too.
Here are some thoughts for dealing with this problem with grade school children.
First, is your child getting enough sleep? Sometimes children won’t get out of bed in the morning because they are really tired. Grade school children need about ten hours of sleep a night, so if your child is getting less than that, you might need to look at your evening routine.
Once you’ve determined that lack of sleep is not the problem, consider whether you allow enough time for your child to do what she needs to do in the morning. Does she need to get up, be focused, and hit the ground running? Sometimes you need to get up earlier to give your child enough time to do what she needs to do, complete with some distractions and unexpected events (like the permission form that’s due today and she just found it…)
OK, enough sleep and enough time and still continued delaying, distracting, and nagging. Yuck.
1. At a relaxed time talk to your child about the problem in morning routine. Do so respectfully without blaming. Get her ideas about what might help. You might be surprised. Have her make a list of the things she needs to do before leaving for school. She can make a list with space to check off each task as she completes it. Post the list in a public place. Then in the morning you can ask her to check the list for the next task. This way she has an investment in the solution because she made the list. And you can let the list tell her what to do.
2. Stop nagging. It isn’t helping is it? Remind your child twice about each step, but then stop. Nagging only creates resentment, resistance, and opposition. Perhaps you’ll be late to school, but if you hang in, you’ll have a more cooperative child who takes responsibility for doing what she needs to do. It’s worth it.
3. Praise her enthusiastically for whatever she does to get ready. This is very important. If you want to build motivation and initiative, praise every effort that leads in the right direction. Then prompt her to look at the list for the next step. Behavior change happens little by little, piece by piece.
I hope that this helps your morning routine.