Do you dread mornings?

Mornings can be a parent’s worst nightmare. How many times have you rolled over in bed dreading the task of getting your children up, fed, ready and out of the house? Having a relaxed organised morning where everyone is polite and cooperative can be achieved using some organisation, a different approach and some new skills.

Getting organised

You need to prepare the night before to be ready for the morning ahead. For the children, things like lunch boxes, getting school bags ready with everything needed, making sure reading or homework is complete and laying out clothes.

The second thing is setting your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier. I know this is hard, but it gives you time to wake up and get ready yourself before trying to get the children ready. You have a chance to prepare for the day and be slightly more awake before getting your children sorted. If you need your beauty sleep, plan on getting to bed a little earlier.

A different approach

What would you like to happen differently in your morning?
You need to write it down and break it into small chunks so that you can start to change the triggers that cause your morning to become stressed.
You have to know what needs to change, and what the benefit will be to you before any change is likely to happen.
Keep what you want in mind. If you want a calm, happy atmosphere, you will need to be calm and happy yourself.

Plan for success

When you have worked out what needs to happen, chat the changes through with your partner if you have one, and then discuss the changes with the whole family. Let them know what the reward will be if your mornings are calmer (an outing to the park, time playing football with Mum, cooking pizza with Dad –anything that appeals to your children.

If one of your children is particularly difficult in the morning, have a chat with them, one-to-one at a time when you are both calm and relaxed. (I found just before bed, sitting on my child’s bed the best time in my family). Be friendly and positive. Explain your difficulty by describing how you feel and what causes it ‘I feel upset and angry when we run late for school because you are not ready in time’ ‘I feel frustrated when you take more than half an hour to eat your breakfast’.

Ask your child if they have any ideas on how to solve the problem. Jot them down. Keep writing the suggestions and at the end maybe suggest one or two of your own. Ask him what he feels is the best suggestion and ask if he could try it the next morning. Get him to tell you what it is he is going to do differently.

The next morning wake your child with a hug and a kiss. Ask them if they remember what they were going to do differently this morning. If they have forgotten, say ‘It’s something about eating breakfast….’ And let them fill in the blanks.

Comment on any improvements

If they succeed in getting ready for school on time or eating their breakfast more quickly give them lots of descriptive praise. Let them know exactly what they did to earn that praise –‘You ate up all your breakfast in 20 minutes!’ ‘You are dressed and ready for school five minutes before we have to leave!’ If they didn’t quite make it, but improved on the previous morning’s efforts, give them plenty of descriptive praise for the improvement. Let them know how pleased you are with what they did do.

Once again –the difficult bit –Don’t comment on what they didn’t do. This takes a huge amount of self-control, but stick with it. Let them know that you are happy they are trying to improve.

Occasionally it’s a good idea to offer a random reward, such as a favourite meal or family swimming trip. Explain it’s because they did so well getting ready in the mornings.

Keep going

OK, hopefully, if you have used these two skills you will start to see the improvements in your morning.
Here is the bad news. You need to keep up preparing the night ahead and getting up early, talking through what will happen the next morning and giving lots of praise for every effort and improvement your child makes UNTIL IT BECOMES A HABIT.

Experts say it takes anything from 21 to 66 days for something to become a habit. But wouldn’t it be a lovely habit to have mornings which are organised, peaceful and happy?

Sorry – I didn’t say it was going to be easy –just that you can change things if you want to.
Good luck

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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