Morning Madness and How to Improve It
One of the biggest button pushers for parents is getting a child to leave the house without a fuss. This is particularly difficult in the morning when we are trying to get them to nursery or school. We are on a deadline, we can’t miss that train or the morning meeting and our child runs off half dressed and crawls under the bed out of reach. We start off calm ‘out you come darling’, they ignore us or worse still, laugh. ‘It isn’t funny darling, I am going to be late for work’ or 'You'll be late for school' (They don't seem to care). We reach under the bed and the slither further away…. GET OUT OF THERE NOW!’ Then the threats start ‘You can’t have the iPad’, ‘No ice cream for dinner’ ‘I will take your tractor away…’ and if that has no effect we might make a grab for them and stuff them screaming into their clothes. AAAaaaaaaggghhhhhh. It is such a frustrating way to start the day.
All kinds of things can create panic in the morning: children refusing to get up or to get dressed, they spend ages playing and refuse to have breakfast, they spill breakfast over their clothes, we can't find things, they are glued to a television programme and tune you out...
So how to avoid this? Preparation, Preparation, Preparation! By planning, and having rules and routines you avoid so much stress. Remember, it takes far longer for the children to get ready and to leave the house than it does for an adult, so it is really worth factoring in much more time than you think you should need in order to alleviate the panic.
Get the children to create a checklist of all the things they need to do the minute they get up. We assume too readily that children know what’s expected of them. I promise you that when you get them to write or draw it (with your help) it gives them that extra push.
People have different preferences as to whether children get dressed before or after breakfast. I prefer before and I give them a napkin to keep their clothes clean. So before they come to the kitchen, the children need to be dressed and they must have done their jobs (ie, bed made, blinds open and pyjamas under the pillow). You just realised your children don't help much? Don't worry - you can teach them how to do this!
The checklist below should help you prepare for your day:
- Prepare the night before: gather the shoes, coats and school bags together to avoid the morning scramble.
- Lay the breakfast table the night before or before the children come to breakfast. It gives the impression that you mean business and stops you getting distracted searching in the cupboard for the cornflakes.
- It may be necessary to get yourself up and dressed before the children and earlier than you might wish to. Agonising as it is, it really does help the whole process go more smoothly and it is so much nicer to have a pleasant departure and journey to school if you are calmer.
- Keep hairbrushes and hairbands (where necessary) in a box in the kitchen. In the winter have a glove and hat basket too.
- Have a set of toothbrushes and toothpaste in the kitchen.
- Only allow television or other kind of screen after they have done absolutely everything that is required. We don't allow television in the morning as we found it too hard to get it switched off, and there is a lot of evidence to show that watching a screen before school impedes learning.
- Remember, the last push to get out of the door in reality takes 20 minutes. (We wish it was less, but if you aim for 20 minutes you might be pleasantly surprised.)
- It’s very helpful to have a ‘get ready to go’ checklist with words or pictures of all that needs to be done at this point: eat breakfast, brush teeth, go to the loo, put on coat and shoes. Again, getting children to draw this themselves and then to refer to it will make a big difference.
We are by no means a perfect morning family. I can remember many times over the years when I have shouted, rushed them, nagged them and wound up at the nursery or school feeling incredibly frustrated both with myself and with the children. However, if I keep reviewing my systems, freshening up the checklists or reward charts from time to time, getting up earlier and engaging the children more in the preparation, it really pays dividends. We have used an incentive scheme; by getting to school on time from Monday to Thursday with minimal fuss, they earn a stop for hot chocolate before school on Friday. It really does help. It also helps to establish the good habits and after a while you don't need to make the hot chocolate a weekly event.
I hope you find that helpful. Do let me know. I reply personally to all emails I get.
Sending you my very best wishes,
Ps. If you would be interested in working with me to help improve your parenting or address a particular issue, I offer a Package of 3 consultations and unlimited email support between the sessions.