Do You Dread Mornings?

Has the start of school meant the return of morning madness and power struggles? No one wants to start the day with arguments, yelling and threatening as you try to get the kids out the door on time. You can put an end to the morning battles with these simple steps:

  •  Decide what time you need to leave the house in order to arrive at school without rushing. List all the tasks that need to be done prior to leaving. Simplify the list – what can be done the night before? what can be done before waking the kids? Decide upon a routine/ morning schedule that makes sense. Decide if any new rules would make mornings smoother. Examples include:

  • Backpacks are packed the night before and placed by the door

  • Clothes are chosen the night before

  • No digital media in the mornings – this eliminates distractions

  • Everyone needs to be fully dressed before any playtime, before breakfast is served, before going downstairs

  • Consider designating “jobs”: a family “time keeper” who has the job of signaling the time (ringing a bell or flipping lights on and off), a “list checker” can check the list to announce the next task, etc.

  • At a calm time discuss the new, clear routine with the family. If the kids are old enough involve them in the final plan – “We have a problem to solve. Mornings have been difficult. I have been yelling and I need your help to change this.” Increase cooperation by having the children make a checklist, a timeline with photos or a video of the expected behavior and new morning routine. Make sure children understand the rules and what time you will be leaving the house.

  • Get up early, get yourself ready so you are available to encourage your children to follow the new plan.

  • Use encouraging words to keep kids on track. Include small choices that give kids a sense of power and control and prevent power struggles:

    • “I see you have got your shirt on, you are almost dressed!”

    • “You made your bed, nice going! Check the chart for what is next.”

    • “I see you have your shirt on, what do you want to put on next? Your pants or your socks?”

    • “You’re dressed! Can you remember what is next on the list? Washing up is right – will you wash your face or brush your teeth next? The choice is yours.”

  • Stay calm, stick to the plan. Avoid getting off track. Staying calm is key. Kids might resist the new plan or get distracted. They may come up with excuses for why they cannot do what is asked or they may negotiate. Resist taking their bait or becoming reactive. Stay calm. Use few words. Set limits and stick to the plan: “I know you don’t want to get your coat on. I hear you feel rushed and you are not happy. The rule is that we leave at 8am. Do you want to wear your coat or carry it? Either is okay. I will meet you in the car.” DO NOT YELL OR FIGHT WITH YOUR KIDS. Send the message: “I love you too much to fight with you”

  • Expect problems. Be prepared for mistakes. Have a bag of clothes, hairbrush, etc. at the door. Let the family know it is almost 8am and you will be leaving the house in a few minutes. Kids who are not ready will protest. Empathically respond, “I know you are not quite ready, but it is 8am and we need to leave, you can finish up in the car or at school.” Keep moving towards the door. Plenty of children have arrived at school in disarray while learning to become responsible with their morning routine. They may be uncomfortable or embarrassed but they learn that they need to follow the morning rules. Most children quickly ready themselves as they realize you are moving and you are not willing to wait for them; and you are not bothered that they are not ready.

  • Be consistent, change takes time.

    For more information about our online parenting course or parent coaching, contact Karen Jacobson, MA, LCPC, LMFT at 312-330-3194, or Lauren Bondy, LCSW at 847-562-9503, Or, visit