"Our Morning Routine Isn't Working"-6 Ways To Fix It Now
Maybe you started out the school year on the right foot. All those late
summer discussions about your kids getting organized, laying their clothes out
the night before, getting out of bed on time, fixing their own breakfast,
getting through the morning without arguments-you really thought you got through
And maybe things went relatively smoothly-for the
first few days. But here we are, near the end of the first month back to school,
and all those old behaviors are back. Your child might have even added some new
annoying behaviors to the mix!
Signs your morning routine isn't working:
You're starting to resent how much time it takes to pry your child out of bed
It's not even 7 am, and you've already had six arguments.
You end up late for work several days a week because your child
-intentionally-by accident- missed the bus, again.
You find yourself scrambling to help your child with a math problem they
"forgot" to do last night, even though you asked several times about their
homework. (Last night, they didn't have any homework.)
There's so much eye-rolling, heaving, sighing, and dragging of feet in your
morning routine, you'd think it was a sitcom not your actual life.
Look, the morning routine is tough on a lot of families. If you're struggling
with this, you are not alone. At Empowering Parents, we hear this every day from
parents just like you.
Morning wrestling matches-arguments, battles of will,
power struggles-happen for every family. The good news is you can turn your
mornings around. And although your kids probably won't thank you for it,
everyone will benefit.
Here are some practical tips to help mornings go a little more smoothly for
Discuss your morning routine (but don't do it in the morning). Even if
morning person, it's still not the best time to discuss what's not working. Set
some time aside to discuss your rules and expectations, clearly laying out for
your child what's not working, and what needs to change. When your morning gets
stressful, refer your child back to the conversation you've already had, rather
than get into another argument. In The Total Transformation Program, James
Lehman suggests redirecting your child by saying: "We've discussed this already.
You know what you need to do, now go do it."
Give your child a chance to gain skills and confidence by focusing on one or two
behaviors that need to change. Choose the top two annoying morning behaviors,
and come up with a specific action plan to address those issues. Talk with your
child about the things they can do to improve those one or two things, and help
them come up with ways they can meet your expectations.
To see real changes, be specific. It's not enough to tell your child, "You need
to remember your homework." Your child needs to know exactly what she can do
differently in order to remember her homework. To help her build organizational
skills, think specific action steps rather than vague directions. Talk through
some ideas together. If there are things she can do the night before to prepare
for the morning, make sure those are clear. The key to a successful morning
routine is to know exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Specific
tasks and clear systems help everyone stay on track with minimal discussion.
Coach your child, then step out of the picture. So many parents work way harder
than their kids do: waking your child up five times every morning, reminding
them every ten minutes that they need to make their lunch or pack up their gym
bag. The good news is, you can stop working so hard. It isn't working anyway. If
you've had a clear discussion about your rules and expectations for the morning
routine, all you need to do in the morning is remind your child of the rules. In
the beginning, you may need to do some coaching, but resist that urge to jump in
and do the work for him.
Let the school enforce consequences. Your child's school has rules and
expectations for their students. Most likely, there are consequences in place
for students who don?t meet those expectations. This is a great opportunity for
you to step out of the drama and allow someone else to enforce the rules.
If your child habitually shows up late, don't protect them from detention or
other consequences. If your child brings up a last minute homework assignment,
don't fix it. Let him deal with the consequences from his teacher. This is a
tough one for some parents, but it shows your child that there are natural
consequences for their actions.
Remember, your child is the one who needs to work harder at getting to school on
time or finishing their assignments on time. As James says, you've been through
all this in your own childhood-you don't need to do it all again.
How does this work in practice? If your child springs last minute homework on
you in the morning, you might let her know: "Homework gets done after school,
not before school. You'll need to tell your teacher that you haven't finished
it." Keep your child responsible for their own actions and the results of those
actions. James calls this a "culture of accountability," and it's a key part of
a healthy family system.
No matter what happens, step away from the arguments. There's no good time to
get into an argument with your child, but the early hours of the day are
definitely not a good time. No one needs extra drama in the morning, especially
not you. Instead of getting into daily morning arguments, remind your child of
the rules, give them a little bit of coaching, and step out of the way.
Arguments only delay things that are already taking far too long.
If your morning struggles go beyond average annoying behaviors, be sure to reach
out for more help. Kids with ODD and other challenges may need more specialized
coaching to help them improve their behaviors. And know that the entire
Empowering Parents team is here to help you. ("Our Morning Routine Isn't
Working"-6 Ways To Fix It Now reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents)
Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, a
former Parental Support Line Advisor, for Empowering Parents, makers of
The Total Transformation Parenting Program, a speaker, and writer. She is also the
bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work
at www.refugeingrief.com, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.
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