I think every parent in the world has suffered with morning chaos, trying to get children out the door with everything they need for school and on time. The mayhem can include yelling, crying, threats of spankings (even if you have never spanked your child), time outs (even though you don’t have time for time outs), and irrational threats like “You’re gonna get it when you get home from school.” Of course, when they get home from school you are in a totally different state of mind and the “you’re gonna get it threat” has evaporated into the air with all the other threats you made while children were dawdling through their morning routine.
You ask yourself if every household is the same—morning Mayhem or if there is a magic wand or formula that other parents have to get children off to school. Maybe there is a conspiracy—all children put their parents through morning chaos only to get to school with halos shining, following every direction from the teacher, putting their homework on her desk like there was never a problem finding it. If your child has ADHD, he may still not be able to find his homework or remember to turn it in, but you are sure it was in his book bag. If you have a child with any of the autistic spectrum disorders or even mild depression, your morning may include a full blown melt down.
As people who work with me know, I believe in prevention as the first technique. Once the morning has turned to mayhem, you probably are not going to be able to rescue it. But you can save the next morning. So here are some tips:
1. Organize all clothing, book bags, homework, projects, etc. the night before. It helps to add this to the bedtime routine.
2. Help children organize their routine according to their developmental age creating as much independence as possible—the fewer words you have to use the less mayhem. For example, break it down into steps. Get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, etc.
3. For younger children, you may want to have them follow a chart. As each task is completed the child can put a sticker on it or highlight it with a magic marker. You can set up a reward program using items like stickers, marbles, flowers, beads, etc. Each day the child can get a special treat for earning a certain number of these items. Special treats can include, game time with parents, get to stay up later, or extra reading time. For a sample behavior chart, go to http://www.latitudes.org/behavior_charts/weekly_chart_bright.pdf
4. Set up rules around this chart and write them.
5. If your child is very small or thinks in pictures, include pictures of things like a toothbrush or eating breakfast.
6. For older children, try writing a contract that includes expectations and what parents will do if agreement is honored or a consequence if not honored.
7. The most important parenting technique: STAY CONSISTENT!
Hope this helps with any morning mayhem and thanks for reading my tips,
Jan Eggiman, RN,MS, LMFT