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5 Tips for Getting Your Kids Out the Door in the Morning

Essential ideas for crunch-time discipline

Published on: May 28, 2017

girl late in the morning

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Imperfect Families blog

Balancing three lunch boxes, a purse, and a cup of coffee, you yell up the stairs, “IT’S TIME TO GO!”

Slow, sluggish feet shuffle into the room.

“Come on,” you urge. “Shoes. Backpacks!”

Your anxiety rises as you glance at the clock. You cannot be late again today.

“Get moving guys!”

One child can’t find his shoe. The other is struggling with her coat. Where is the third child? Ugh. In the bathroom? Now?!

“We’re going to be late! Hustle! Come on!”

Scrambling around, doing the final sweep of the living room to make sure nothing is forgotten, your child screams, “I’M NOT GOING!”

You close your eyes. Not again. Not today.

Discipline when you're in a hurry

There’s no question that “crunch time” makes discipline more difficult. We feel rushed, anxious, impatient, frustrated.

It’s really no wonder that our kids dig in their heels and resist in these moments.

Is it possible to stay positive and respectful when the clock is ticking? Is it possible to get kids moving without yelling?

Yes.

But first, let’s be clear about one thing:

More than likely, your child does not have the same sense of urgency you do about getting out the door in the morning. There may be many reasons for this: their bed is warm and comfy, they struggle in school, they have a difficult time transitioning, they miss you during the day, etc.

No amount of reminding or nagging will change these reasons.

So, rather than putting all of your efforts into convincing your child to see things from your perspective, look for ways to meet in the middle.

Tips for the morning routine

  1. Plan ahead: I know you know this, but really…what can you do to make the morning go more smoothly? Can you make lunches the night before? Can you set your alarm a few minutes earlier? Can you take 5 minutes each night to make sure backpacks are loaded and ready, waiting by the front door? It’s easier said than done sometimes, but take a second and think about the things that are making you feel rushed, and see if there are any tweaks or changes you could try.
     
  2. Look at your own stuff: Often, when we’re rushing or reminding others, it’s because we’re feeling worried or stressed. So, take a look at your own feelings and thoughts. What is causing you to feel so rushed?  Do you struggle with mornings, too much noise, too much activity, etc.? Do you feel embarrassed because your child goes to school looking like they got in a wrestling match with a hairbrush? It’s ok. Take a deep breath. Just knowing that these things are triggers will help you make a plan to handle them differently in the future.
     
  3. Slow down: You might think “I don’t have time to slow down!!” Well, consider how much time it takes for you to prod your child along or how much time you spend engaging with them in an argument. You have time. When you feel your anxiety start to rise, or you realize that you’ve been repeating the same phrase 15 times in a row, stop. Take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself to slow down instead of ramp up. Step away, if needed, and come back when you feel less rushed.
     
  4. Lead with connection: Threatening and reminding are not doing the job. Instead, look for ways to connect with your child before you try to move them onto the next thing on the agenda.  (Remember “slow down”? Yep. This is where the magic happens.) Get on their level, get their attention, offer a hug, listen instead of lecture. It can be a simple interaction. A few minutes (or seconds!) at a time.
     
  5. Meet big emotions with empathy: It’s tempting to use logic and reason when you want your child to move faster. Unfortunately, these responses often add more fuel to the fire, rather than easing the conflict. Responding with empathy means that you are willing to look beyond your own thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and get into your child’s experience. Working hard to see things from their perspective. Even if it’s different from your own.

Ideas for connecting and empathizing

  • Rather than flipping on the lights and yelling, “Get Up!” You pull your child into a warm snuggle for a few minutes.
     
  • “Would you like to pack your lunch or eat breakfast first?”
     
  • “It looks like you’re having trouble choosing something out to wear. Can I help?”
     
  • “Those socks are bothering you today. Let’s see if we can find another pair.”
     
  • “You can’t get your hair just right? Want me to work on it while you brush your teeth?”
     
  • “Nothing sounds good for breakfast? Hmm. Come here, I don’t think we’ve had our morning hug yet.”
     
  • “I know you hate being rushed. Let’s take a deep breath and figure out what else you need to do.”
     
  • “That big test is on your mind, huh? Want me to quiz you while you pack your lunch?”
     
  • “You want to keep playing, and it’s time to go. Would you like to bring something with you in the car?”
     
  • “No jacket today? OK. I’m just going to throw it in, just in case you change your mind.”
     
  • “How many kisses do you need when I drop you off today? 20?! Wow! I can’t wait.”
     
  • “I know you were hoping to ride the bus today. That’s a bummer. Let me help you carry your stuff to the car.”

Feel anxious just reading those phrases? Take a deep breath. Remember to slow down. This may uncomfortable at first, since you’re used to rushing, prodding, and panicking. And that’s ok. Give yourself some time for this to become second nature. Put down the coffee. Set down your purse. Take another deep breath. You’ll get there.

Originally published on the Imperfect Families blog. 

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