As the school year begins, there is often a deep sense of dread about those morning routines, and the constant prodding, pushing and nagging to keep the kids moving.
For some parents, the morning routine is the worst part of the day. The constant conflict 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 are late for work, all because there really isn’t a morning routine.
While these ugly starts to the day can be frustrating and challenging, these struggles can be easily avoided.
Here are my top three strategies for making mornings easy:
1. Be the leader in preparedness
You know how this works: You are yelling from the bathroom, as you try to get dressed while getting the kids out of bed. This isn’t going to work, if you want an easeful morning routine.
Instead, just 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 simple suggestion, but it works! No confusing theory or complicated steps.
By getting up earlier, you can model the behavior that you want from your kids. Show them how comfortable the morning can be when you are 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 the tools of simple leverage
I find that parents have two types of leverage that they rarely use: breakfast and entertainment, (such as video games, computer, telephone (texting), TV or playtime with toys and goodies).
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 texting or computers 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. 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 got up late and missed breakfast, so be it. 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!
Under no circumstances do you nag, push, plead, or pull to get them going. Stop all engagement of their lollygagging around. Ignore their moaning and complaining. Ignore their lying in bed.
You cannot keep engaging your children (with your attention and energy) 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 distracted, you will see them becoming more distracted and slower over the years ahead. It has to happen that way! It’s one of the laws of human behavior! And yet…there’s one….
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, remind them that’s its 30 minutes later to bed that night. 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, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. Visit www.TerrificParenting.com for more information.