Leaving on time in the morning
Author :Jo Whitfield , for ‘Spot A Childcare’
Getting yourself and your child ready and out of the door on time in the morning can sometimes be a real challenge, and power struggles and upsets are not the greatest way to start the day.
The problem is, there’s a deadline – you have to be out of the door by a certain time, or you’ll be late for work. It’s all very nice when you’re just getting ready for a leisurely afternoon in the park, but when there’s a fixed time involved things suddenly get stressful and seem ten times more difficult.
Your child will pick up on your stress levels and be less relaxed themselves, you’ll be preoccupied by the preparations and less likely to be connected with your child, and your patience is likely to be in shorter supply. It’s a vicious cycle – the more you lose patience and the more disconnected you become from your child the less you will be able to gain their cooperation. We’ve all been there!
So how do we approach this situation?
Try to move away from expecting blind obedience and submission. In order to achieve this you will most likely end up using bribes and threats, in a desperate attempt to get your child to do what you want.
“If you don’t get your shoes on now then there’ll be no TV tonight”.
This approach might seem tempting in the moment, but the problem is that in the long term it can be counterproductive as it breaks down the connection between parent and child and reduces willing cooperation. Soon you’ll find you’re having to resort to these measures every morning. This does not make for a happy, healthy relationship.
Better to use strategies aimed to gain your child’s cooperation and allow you to actually enjoy your time together.
Abrupt orders, and expecting your child to comply instantly, are not realistic. Don’t expect your child to stop whatever they’re doing suddenly and without warning. Instead try;
“In two minutes it’s time to put our shoes on” or “You just have a minute to finish what you’re doing, then it’s time to come eat your toast”.
Another method is to connect with your child before giving direction.
“That’s a great model you’re building there, what’s it going to be?….You’ll have to finish that when you get home this afternoon. Right now, I need you to fetch your coat.”
Think about it. You don’t like having to drop everything without warning. And your child just isn’t on the same page as you when it comes to the morning’s priorities and timescales. Give them a chance. Gentle reminders and warnings will help reduce resistance.
This is one of the best ways to stay connected, and connection is the key to cooperation. Make a game out of things, be silly, joke and giggle together. Have a silly tooth-brushing song, grab a couple of stuffed toys and have them talk to your child. “I’ll bet your forgot your shoes. I love your coat. Will it fit me? I’m gonna eat all your breakfast when you’re not looking.” Make silly noises as the shoes go on.
Many children are far more cooperative when they feel they have a little control over things. Obviously, they have no choice over whether or not they leave on time that day, or even whether they leave the house at all. In fact, when you think about it, children get very little choice over what happens to them day to day, and toddlers especially, can really start to trying to test us and exert their independence. This is actually healthy and normal, so let’s encourage it when we can.
“Would you like to put your shoes on here or there?” or “Are you going to brush your teeth before or after you’re dressed”
These little things can make so much difference, helping a child feel respected and just that little more in control of their own destiny. This should lead to less push back, which is what we’ll get when we simply bark orders.
Do it yourself
If it’s quicker and easier, and your child is willing, don’t be afraid to do things for them. Don’t get hung up on whether or not they should be putting their own shoes on by now. Maybe your child likes the closeness of you helping, maybe they just can’t seem to focus long enough to get the job done themselves. Either way, the time will come soon enough when they will refuse your help. Don’t worry that you’ll still be putting their shoes on for them when they’re a teenager. That won’t happen. If you really want them to practise doing something on their own, then maybe that leisurely trip to the park would be a better time. It’s not worth getting into a fight about it right now.
Develop a routine
I’ve found this has become more helpful as my child get older and things are less chaotic. Children love little rituals, repetitions and routines. It can help them know what to expect, where they are, and to feel safe and calm. This strategy will be more important for some children than others. It depends on the child, and on what stage they’re at.
None of these strategies will guarantee instant success or will work every time. But if you find what works best for you and your child, you should have a less stressful morning, a happier child, and a better relationship in the long term.