Top Tips for Managing Morning Mayhem

One of the most common causes of parental stress is what we call ‘morning mayhem’. Parents often report to us that they have awful mornings where they wind up screaming at their children, nagging and making wild threats. By the time they drop their children off at nursery or with the child minder they regularly feel guilty and the children are often upset or withdrawn. By putting a bit of time, thought and effort into making changes and by applying the methods below parents find their mornings are transformed.

  • Allow more time. Children can find transitions (ie moving from one activity to another) hard. They operate on a very different tempo from adults and rushing them always ends in disaster
  • Do as much as possible the night before
  • Stay focussed on getting the children to do what’s required. When we take our eye off the ball (eg making just a quick phone call) things tend to go ‘pear-shaped’. This often means getting up a bit earlier to get yourself ready first. (Nobody likes this suggestion!)
  • Have written or pictorial routines so everyone knows what has to be done and so you remember what to praise the children for.
  • Talk through with the children as soon as they get up what has to be done. Ask them questions: ‘What do you need to do before we go downstairs?’ Once we’ve had breakfast what needs to be done?’ Praise them for their answers. Even if they’re not correct you can praise the child for taking a guess.
  • Be there while your children are doing what they have to do and praise your children for little steps in the right direction (rather than waiting for the whole task to be completed) ‘Olivia, you have one sock on already and you put it on all by yourself’’. This is much more motivating for children than nagging and chivvying.
  • Empathise with the child who finds it difficult to get going in the morning or has not yet developed good organisational habits or who just isn’t interested in the task at hand. ‘I know you find it hard to concentrate on getting dressed when you’d rather be playing with your train set. You can earn 10 minutes of train-playing after breakfast by getting dressed quickly.’
  • Some children suffer particularly from low blood sugar levels and need to be fed quickly. Some are easily distracted and are best dressed away from the toys in their rooms.
  • Brainstorm with the kids for strategies for dealing with difficult situations. ‘How do you think we can make mornings more fun?’
  • Time events so that good things follow less favourite things eg getting dressed, tidying up, eating breakfast comes before any playtime. We recommend you don’t use TV as a reward in the mornings.
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