On occasion, GROW Parenting answers reader question based on the issues we frequently hear about from families. In today’s post, I answer a reader’s question about how to wrangle the kids out the door in the morning.
Dear GROW Parenting,
Help! Our 4-year-old is turning mornings into a three-ring circus. She thinks getting ready is a game and as soon as we start, she runs away. It’s one thing when she does it with me, but now she is starting to turn on the antics with our nanny. Our family has put many of your bedtime tips in to practice and I would like to figure out how the nanny and I can use them in the morning as well. Can you help us stop the circus?
I feel your pain. I really do. The herding of kids out the door in the morning has exasperated every parent at least a few times. The good news is, we can step out of the game and let them herd themselves.
The single biggest way we can change the game: Stop hovering, chasing and nagging. Before you say, “Then we will never ever get out the door again” think about what your child is getting out of this daily game. Why would she do as she’s told and be out the door quicker when she could engage in a nice game of “Watch Mommy Chase Me and Give Me Her Full Attention”? Our job is to model healthy ways to connect and get attention. If we nag and hover, it reinforces that they have found a great way to connect.
So what’s a parent to do? Here’s four tips to get you out the door without losing your mind:
1) Create a routine chart WITH your child
Routine charts help kids take responsibility for what needs to happen, particularly when we create it with our children. Kids become clear on their role and know their job matters in the family. It’s amazing how much this increases their willingness to cooperate.
2) Ask questions
Let the routine chart be the boss and use questions to prompt them when your children get stuck. Questions invite your kid to do the thinking instead of us telling them. Here are a few examples:
- “What’s next on your routine chart?”
- “I notice that the clock says 8 a.m. Do you remember what time we need to leave?”
- “What needs to happen so we can get to ____ on time?”
- “Would you like to put your jacket on first or your shoes?”
3) Make a statement
Sometimes a question just won’t do. Here are a few statements that can help us share what’s on our mind without jumping back in to micromanaging:
- “In 10 minutes it will be time for us to leave.” (Then just sit back and trust your child will do what he needs to. It’s important to not show mistrust.)
- “I know it’s hard to stop playing with ____, and I am concerned we will be late to ____.”
- “I know it’s hard to stop playing with ____, and I am happy to babysit your (stuffies, cars, books, etc.) until you get home and can play with them again.”
You tried a question, you tried a statement and things are still not moving along. Now is the time for us to zip our mouths before we lose it. Use one statement: “It’s time to leave for school. I will be on the porch/garage/by the door when you are ready.” Then not another word.
Our instinct here is to keep talking and coaxing. As we get more upset, we move on to threats, bribes, anything to get them to do what we want them to. It is critical not to engage here. If your children ask questions or gets upset, you can point to your watch, make an empathetic face, point to the door, etc. Personally, I actually have to go out on the porch so that I am not tempted to get involved.
Before you try this yourself...
The first day you try this, I recommend leaving extra time so that you can wait patiently. When we are pressed for time, it raises our stress level which triggers our child’s own stress. Neither speeds things up. If you can wait your kid out without jumping back in the game, eventually she will come.
When she does, there’s no need for a lecture. Just a simple thank-you and move along with the day. If we start in with what they did wrong, we just put them back in a place of feeling powerless and they are likely to turn the antics back on.
The good news is, when we stay out of it and let them have our kids have their feelings, it usually only takes a few times for them to get it. Often, children realize their antics are not getting the desired response and they let go of the behavior. Be sure to offer opportunities for them to feel connected in positive ways so they will be less likely to seek them out this way down the road.
Originally published by GROW Parenting