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Ask the Parent Coach: Destressing the Morning Routine

Published on: January 29, 2013

Middle school girl getting on school busAsk the Parent Coach: Jennifer Watanabe


Q: My 12-year-old daughter takes forever to get ready for school. Our mornings are filled with rushing, panicking, yelling, and sometimes even crying. Several times this year she has been late for school. I have to get to my job right after I drop her off, and I can’t be late for work anymore! Do you have any ideas on how our family can start the day more calmly and on time?

Middle school girl getting on school busA: Almost every parent has had the frustrating experience you describe. And, if you are like many parents, by the time the alarm goes off you are already dreading the morning battle. Your patience has worn thin even before your daughter gets out of bed.

First, involve your daughter. Does she think the morning routine is a problem, including getting to school late? Ask her to help with changing the outcome.  If she gets involved she is more likely to cooperate.

Second, remember the morning routine starts the night before. Ask your daughter if her bedtime is early enough to allow for sufficient sleep. Keep in mind, as a teen gets older her body clock makes a shift toward falling asleep later in the evening and waking up later in the morning. What complicates matters is the fact that most schools start early, with many middle schools starting earlier than elementary school, just when the child’s body clock makes the teen shift toward wanting to wake up later.

Third, consider using a checklist kept on a clipboard. This checklist is something you and your daughter co-create: what to do the night before, what to do in the morning, etc. Let her know that many important things in life are completed through the use of a checklist, for example before a pilot takes off he must go through a flight checklist.

Fourth, express your understanding of the care and attention your daughter is taking as she prepares for the school day. Social influence is all around the young teen. Your daughter may be feeling pressure to dress a certain way and to fix her hair and makeup in a certain way. One way to manage the uncertainty in her social life is to better and more confidently manage what she can at home.

Your daughter needs you as her ally as she learns to navigate her pre-teen world. Showing her that you love her unconditionally will go a long way toward cultivating that ally relationship.


Jennifer WatanabeJennifer Watanabe is the parent coach at Youth Eastside Services (YES). She teaches Positive Discipline classes and provides individual parent coaching. As a Certified Parent Coach, she has vast experience teaching parenting classes, using research-based information on child development, temperament, discipline, and emotion management. She specializes in helping parents who are longing for a better relationship with their children and who need a more effective way to discipline. Perhaps most importantly, Jennifer understands first-hand the issues parents face in our community.

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