OK, so you’ve made it through the first four months of school, but your morning routine is hardly running like a well-oiled machine. There’s a lot of nagging, foot dragging and perhaps, from time to time, a little parental yelling. N’est pas?
We asked parent educators Allison Rees and Jean Bigelow for tips to help get kids out the door to school with a lot less fuss.
Here’s their advice for turning your mornings into something that’s more like Leave it to Beaver than Lord of the Flies.
Getting out of the house in the morning is one of the most stressful times of the day for families. Young kids want to play, while the teens won’t get out of bed, or fuss over their appearance too long.
Parents become human cuckoo clocks: “It’s time to get up.” … “It’s time to get up.” Very rational people find themselves losing it with their kids: “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST GET READY?”
Know you aren’t alone and for good reason … kids don’t understand time and really don’t get what we are so worried about. They can learn, though, and this can happen sooner rather than later if you get a plan in place and stop nagging and yelling.
In a recent eight-week course I offered, we focused on the fact that our nagging, getting angry and micro-managing interferes with our children’s ability to manage their own time and figure out what they have to do. During this course, a mom with a five- and a seven-year-old announced that she had pulled back from the morning battles.
She talked to her kids and made sure they knew what they needed to do to get ready in the morning. She also talked about her responsibilities, which included setting a five-minute warning buzzer. They agreed they would all meet in the van, with the last person to leave locking the front door.
She found it relaxing to sit in the car with a magazine waiting while the kids scrambled to get to the van. She also took the time to explain to the teachers why they were 20 minutes late for school that entire week. A week after hearing this, I made the suggestion that they adjust the clocks by 20 minutes so they weren’t late. She gave me a big smile and said, “We no longer have issues in the morning. My kids figured out what they had to do and how to do it.”
Her kids also discovered that if they were early, they could go to the library and read a book with mom. While this may not be the case in every school, morning turned into cuddles on the floor of the school library. Success!
Of course, this wouldn’t work for everyone, but there are many variations of pulling back. Here are a few ideas:
• Discuss the issue and identify what everybody needs to do in the morning.
• Young kids can draw pictures on a chart or cut them out of a magazine (or you can take pictures of your child doing the task)
• Start your morning on a positive note — connect with your kids, giving them warm, focused attention (don’t worry if they don’t reciprocate)
• Mind your own business — do what you say you will do, which is getting to the front door or the car
• Remember that kids take longer to get ready, so put that in your plan
• Allow natural consequences to happen that aren’t devastating (getting dressed in the van, being late)
• Issue alarm clocks with nice loud buzzers out of reach from the bed
• Use a when/then strategy — When you are ready to go with shoes on, then you can play, read
• Get things ready the night before
• Stick to a routine
• Avoid being a grumpy parent and keep your sense of humour
A big part of parenting is the daily pulling of the weeds. If you can get creative and come up with a plan, it makes room for you to be the parent you really want to be. That person is much easier to listen to and certainly somebody your child will want to co-operate with.
Allison Rees’s Sidestepping the Power Struggle course starts Feb. 13. Go to lifeseminars.com for more information.
Many parents find the mornings rushed and mostly unpleasant, but the good news is there are some things you can do to make mornings work better for everyone.
First of all, make sure bedtime is reasonable. Children and teenagers need a lot of sleep, at least nine hours per night but often more (up to 12 hours). Enforcing an early bedtime so that your children wake up naturally rather than having to be woken up each day is a great start. This means turning off all screens at least an hour before bedtime (screens are very stimulating and make sleep difficult for some time afterwards).
Other ideas include:
• Pack lunches the night before
• Lay out the next day’s clothes before bed
• Gather homework and pack backpacks the night before and leave by the door
• Showers and baths should happen in the evening
• Back up the wake-up time to about 20 to 30 minutes earlier so there is ample time for connection and communication and a healthy breakfast for you with your children in the mornings. When the children are dressed, make time for a story or snuggle before everyone goes their separate ways for the day.
• Never allow screens of any type in the morning
This way, your children will be ready to go with a minimum of fuss in the morning. Sometimes, children and teenagers believe they need less sleep than they really do, but this is not the case. On school nights, keeping routines simple and making time to get ready for the next day will make the transition from sleep to getting to school much smoother.
My six-year-old son hates losing games — he has a tantrum if he loses. Could this just be an age-related phase? We don’t want him to turn into a poor loser.
Do you have any advice for this parent? Are you struggling with a parenting dilemma? Write to email@example.com, with “the parent rap” in the subject line. Questions about kids from infants to teens welcome.
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