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BACK TO SCHOOL: 9 Ways to Fix the Morning Rush

By Jackie Burrell
Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 at 5:00 am in Kids & Tweens, Teens.

Morning Routine (Hector Casanova illus., MCT Direct) Shifting children from the lazy days of summer to rigid school schedules is a challenge for most families. It’s hard enough when young sleepyheads don’t hear the alarm or wake up just enough to turn the ringer off before going back to sleep – we’ve also had a couple of sleepwalkers who actually went for a walk with the clock and left it somewhere.

But add in the frantic rush to get washed, dressed and fed, load the backpack, pack the lunch and get out the door and you’ve got all the elements of a nightmarish morning. So we asked some experts for help in beating the morning rush.

“Your child is not being a problem,” said parenting expert Bonnie Harris, author of “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With.” “Your child is having a problem. When you shift your perception in this way, you can begin to address the underlying causes of the problematic morning behaviors.”

1. ID the problem: Some children aren’t morning people, others have trouble with transitions, and some get too easily distracted to focus on more than one instruction at a time. Make sure you’re solving the right problem.

2. Tips for slow movers: Some sleepyheads need extra time to awaken and get ready. Tempting as it is to let everyone get those 15 extra minutes of sleep – or even 5 – it’s better to start the morning routine earlier and take a more relaxed attitude. Start earlier and let kids awaken slowly. Use a soft voice and gentle touch to get kids out of bed. Exude calmness and happiness. It’s contagious.

“I noticed on the days when I don’t rush the children, (but) allow them to enjoy waking up, limit hovering over them to make sure we are keeping to schedule, we all start the day in a better mood,” says Kyra Posma in “42 Rules for Working Moms.

3. Tips for don’t-tell-me-what-to-do kids: Kids who resist verbal orders — even something as mundane as “brush your teeth” — do better when the morning routine is written down. One mom, who posted her tips on the Berkeley Parent Network, called her son’s dry-erase board a miracle cure for the morning rush. He listed every to-do item, from tooth brushing to lunch packing, then used it to keep himself on schedule.

4. Tips for wardrobe dawdlers: Try giving young children limited choices (the red dress or the green skirt and top). Have older ones pick out their clothes the night before. And in extreme cases, says Harris, have them sleep in at least some of the clothes they will wear in the morning.

5. Tips for shower dawdlers: You already knew this one, right? Shower the night before.

6. Show a little respect: People are the way they are. Refrain from telling your child he’s lazy, crabby or disorganized. It’s not helpful, it reinforces negative behavior, and it sets him up to fail. Some people just aren’t morning people.

7. Set a deadline: That said, don’t negotiate the time you leave the house. Give a ten minute warning, a five minute warning, then go start the car.

8. Make a list: Together with your child, list the challenges they face before school — bathroom sharing, wardrobe selection, breakfast, homework, backpacks, lunches and bus timetables. Brainstorm solutions, then write them down and post them.

9. Start now: Don’t wait till the first day of school to enforce a new bedtime or morning routine. Start early.

OK, your turn. Click “comments” and share what works in your household.

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