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Ask An Expert / Children / fatherhood / Mama Drama / Motherhood / School

Morning routine chaos: How can I end the madness?

Morning routine chaos: How can I end the madness?

Dear Mama Drama:

(photo credit)

I am having a hard time getting my four-year-old to preschool on time. I usually ask him to get ready while I hop in the shower. When I get out, he hasn’t done anything. I get so frustrated because we are then rushing around and end up being late.

Please help us with this madness!

~Delayed Mama

Dear Delayed:

Getting out of the door on time in the morning is a challenge for many families. It is important to consider your child’s age and skill level when determining how independently he can complete the tasks you are asking of him. It sounds like your son, like most four-year-olds, will need more adult support to get through the morning routine.

When things are not working it is time to develop a new plan.

One idea would be to bring the items he needs to use into the bathroom where you are showering. He can get dressed, wash his face, and brush his teeth and hair while you shower. Having him in the room with you allows you to peek out periodically to give him support and encouragement. Have some books in a basket that he can look at as a reward when he’s done.

Another idea is to change your routine. Get up fifteen minutes earlier to take your shower and then you can work together to get dressed and ready to leave.

Provide visual supports. This previous Mama Drama column on Morning Routines explains how and why to use visuals as you move your son toward greater independence.  It also addresses the issue of awareness of time, or lack thereof, and strategies to help your child develop this.

Avoid distractions like television, videos, radios, toys, and computers that pull your child’s attention away from the task at hand. Use these as a carrot to encourage him to complete his tasks. Set a goal of being ready ten minutes before you need to leave and he can then choose a preferred activity for those few minutes. This also gives you time to slow down, have a cup of coffee or tea, and finish any last minute tasks.

It is always critical to remember that if things aren’t working, we need to change something…and it isn’t our children, it is ourselves. Provide the supports he needs and mornings will be smoother for everyone.

What tricks help your mornings run smoothly?

Lisa Vratny-Smith

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  1. I get my shower out of the way at night, while Dad reads stories to our 3 year old. Bath and getting in to jammies is “mom time,” and then we hand off so he can get a little one-on-one time and I can practice personal hygiene without the ticking of the morning routine clock ringing in my head like a time bomb about to blow our on-time arrival out of the realm of possibility. Actually ANYTHING I can do the night before, I do – lunches packed, clothes picked out, bags packed – it all helps when that alarm ding-a-lings in the a.m.
    When morning comes, I subscribe to the same theory used for oxygen masks on planes – you first, then the kiddo. I get dressed before he does, get my hair done, etc… This revelation came to me one day when I realized I had my offspring completely ready to go, and I hadn’t even made it out of my PJs yet! Plus, at 3, my son is good at copying, or trying to anyway, the things I do. So just *maybe* he can get some of it done himself, as he watches me.

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