Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Morning Routine: How to keeps kids moving

I don’t know about you, but every parent I know has the same set of challenges when it comes to their morning routine.  And with school just around the corner, I’m dreading it almost as much as my 8 year old.   
The Challenge; get your kid (or kids, as the case may be) up, dressed and ready for school on time, without having to remind them 10 times to put their socks on.  

But it’s not just socks.  It’s the whole morning routine.  
  • Wake up and get out of bed (without having to be asked again and again)
  • Go to the bathroom to pee, brush teeth, wash face and hands, brush hair (without an argument)
  • Get dressed (without supervision and with minimal reminders)
  • Get downstairs for breakfast.
  • Get the backpack in order, including snack and any homework or books.
Last year, about half way through third grade, I realized that I needed to take myself out of the equation.  Rather than going into her room every morning and waking her up with kisses and snuggles, I took her to PC Richards to buy an alarm clock.
We picked it out together.  She created her own playlist, read the instructions and learned how to set the timer. The next morning, she was up, dressed and downstairs in 3 minutes.  Wow. It was a miracle…..that lasted about a week once the novelty wore off.  Then she slowly went back to spacing out, looking out the window and generally dragging her feet every morning.
So, a few weeks later, we created a responsibility chart.  Each morning, she had to:
  1. Wake up without being asked
  2. Get dressed with only one reminder
  3. Brush teeth and wash up with only one reminder
  4. Get downstairs by 8 am.
It was a 4 point system. Each Responsibility was worth a quarter.  Each day that she got to school on time with minimal reminders, she earned a dollar.  At the end of the week, voila, a $5 allowance.  But there are consequences.  If one task is missed, she’s docked .25 cents.
I admit, this works pretty well if you’re the type of parent who is diligently filling out the chart and watching the clock.  But some mornings, if a client calls early, or I’m in some other way per-occupied (because, let’s face it, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), then we lose momentum.
The best and most consistent way that I have found to get my child dressed in the morning without constant reminders, arguments or tears, is to have a race.  She’s in her bedroom, me in mine.  We shout “ready, set, go”, and continue to update each other on each article of clothing (“got my Ez Sox, undies on” or “shirts on”).  It’s actually fun for both of us and a great way to start the day.  The winner gets bragging rights, although it’s really more about the race.
Between you and me, I do take my time so that she has a fighting chance.  If I finish way before her, the motivation is gone.  But sometimes, now that she’s a bit older, she beats me fair and square.  I don’t mind, since in this game, when I lose, we both win.

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