Some tips and ideas on how to get your children to follow a morning routine. Plus some ideas on how to motivate kids who are reluctant to get ready in the morning.
Getting everyone ready and out the door in the mornings can be one of the most stressful parts of the day as a family. Sometimes no matter how organised you are or how streamlined a routine you have, your kids just don’t want to get ready. They are reluctant, or moving at the speed of glacier instead of getting things done quickly. Children don’t have the same sense of time as adults. Finding a missing toy might seem far more important to them than leaving in time for the school bell or your work meeting. Recently a reader contacted me for some advice on how to help her son get follow routines:
From A Mum who needs help: Hi Kat, I would like to ask your advice with something, but first I would like to take this opportunity to say that I have been a fan of yours years ago since living overseas and then I moved to AU and then realised you are an Aussie? I have always found your page helpful and informative and helped me get organised and have some sanity left with the kids. Truly appreciate your effort!
Here comes the question. I have a 5 year old boy that I am having trouble with him getting ready in the morning for Kindy and childcare. He is very slow and my mornings have become horrible repeating myself or yelling. I want him to be independent and understand that we have to get ready in a certain time, but this isn’t happening. I have a 20 months old boy and I’m expecting. I hope I could get the older to understand so it would relieve me a bit and we have calmer relaxed mornings where I don’t feel the guilt later on from yelling. I have tried your checklist chart, but its him being slow or busy chatting about something that make are mornings stressful. Would love to hear from you.
I replied to this lovley lady privately as well but I thought that many readers in the community would also appreciate some tips on how to encourage children to follow a morning routine. As well as some ideas on how to motivate a reluctant child or one who is dragging their feet.
As with all things parenting related, things take time and repetition. Routine charts help children to know what is happening each morning and remember what they have to do. Younger children will need some help and reminders to help them stay on task. However, eventually following their routine independently will become a habit and second nature.
If your child is chatty when they have tasks to be done, let them know that you can have quick chat after they’ve finished their next task. Patience is key. However, being consistent with your morning routine and a positive approach will ultimately help routines to become habits and you will have calmer and happier mornings as a family.
What to do when your child is very reluctant in the mornings:
Add extra time in your morning
Set your alarm 15-30 minutes earlier than you need to, to give yourself more time for your morning routine. Feeling rushed increases stress levels. If your child does take longer to get ready in the mornings having this little bit of leeway with time will help. Get yourself ready before the children wake up if you can. This leaves you able to direct your focus to them in the morning.
You set the tone
As the adults, we set the tone in the mornings. Approaching things calmly and with a positive attitude will help the morning flow much more smoothly than if you are cross and stressed. Good moods and positive attitudes are contagious. Even you are feeling stressed, try and seem calm and cheerful. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it! Praise your child for the good behaviour – for example, “wow you got dressed so quickly!” or “I love how just moved onto the next task on your routine chart without me reminding you!” Don’t focus or give too much attention to negative behaviours, just give a quick reminder or redirection.
Make time for connection
Positive moments of connection between yourself and your children are the foundation of your relationship with them. Spending five minutes with them to sit and chat and have a cuddle will help fill their emotional cup and they will be much happier to cooperate and complete their routine. One of my daughters hated getting out of bed when she was very little, I would have to go back into her room, again and again, to ask her to get up. This could add an extra 15 minutes to my morning. I started hoping into her bed with her for a morning snuggle for just a few minutes, and we would talk about how we had slept and what dreams we had. Then she would happily hop up with me to start the day. This took much less time and it meant we both started off the mornings feeling much happier and more connected.
Make it Fun
Frame the tasks needed to be done in a fun positive way and turn things into a game. Your children could race a timer on your phone or even race you completing your current task. For example, if your child is slow to finish their breakfast in the morning and takes longer than they need to, you could say to them “I bet I have finished drinking this cup of coffee before you finish your cereal, I don’t think you can beat me.” Suddenly they will be much more interested in finishing up breakfast in a quicker fashion.
Or perhaps you can have a family dance-off to a fun song to celebrate being ready with spare time before you head out the door each day. Rebecca Sparrow, an author who writes about navigating the tween and teenage years, recently shared that she listens to a fun song with her kids when they are in the car on the way to school.
Having some ownership and control over what is happening helps children feel happier. They are more likely to cooperate and complete tasks if they’ve had a say in what’s happening. Present two acceptable options to them and allow them to decide. For example – “Are you going to pack your school bag next or brush your teeth?”. Or “Are you going to wear your jacket or your jumper today?”.
Cut out distractions
If there is something that is adding distractions to the morning consider removing the distraction until the morning routine is complete and they are ready to go. If the lure of playing with a new toy is stopping them from getting ready quickly, then the toy could be put away in the mornings until they are ready. Or if the television and other devices are distracting, consider making mornings screen-free. Or you could use screen time as a reward once they are ready to go.
What do you find challenging about getting ready in the morning with children?
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