The same thing happens every morning at our house. Every.single.morning. I kid you not. At 7:00 am, I call for the dog and open the door to P’s bedroom. The pup sleepily yawns and stretches and obliges my asking her to wake up our boy. The pup happily jumps up on P’s bed, walks around, sniffs, and gently nudges him out of his slumber. The dog then sits on the end of the bed, yawns, and looks at me like “Your turn now!”
This is one of the tricky things in our house–wake up time. No matter the time of bedtime the night before wake up time is still a crap shoot. I’ve tried waking up by turning on lights, pulling off covers, talking to the child to force him to open his eyes and stretch. I’ve sat on the edge of the bed coaxing the sleepy child to wake up. Lately, sending the dog in for front line duty has been successful. And she is happy to report for duty.
There are still mornings where waking up and getting ready for the day more than difficult…it’s a struggle. There is no motivation, feelings of lethargy, and sleepiness that is so hard to shake. I try to be positive, but firm on the importance of school attendance. My boys know my rule that if they stay home they are confined to their room, no electronic devices, no snacks, one glass of water, and minimal trips to the bathroom are allowed. Usually after a quick reminder of the “you are home from school rule,” I have one child who says “Fine. I’ll go to school.” And I have another child who says, “Fine. OK. Let me go back to sleep.”
Now I have to try all new strategies to overcome those mornings when the motivation is gone and lethargy is hanging around. My first strategy is always to sing. Sometimes I might make up a goofy little tune or sing some of the songs from my summer camp counseling days. On a good morning, P might groan and beg me “Mooommmm, stop singing.” I always promise to stop singing as soon as there are two feet on the ground.
We are working on evolving our toolbox of de-escalation strategies for when those moments when the struggle is real. Patience is tested. Agendas pitted against one another. Feelings are on the line. There are some things that I have had to let go of for my personal mental wellbeing and for the boys’ wellbeing too. Breakfast at the table vs. breakfast in the car. For our house, it is more of you’ve put something in your tummy. On time arrival at school. I used to be a huge stickler about that for my boys. It is still important and something we strive for even when some mornings have gone to hell and a hand basket. My outlook now is if my children arrive five to ten minutes late, but in the mindset to learn, work, and be respectful it’s a win.
Some more tools that we are working on.
- Act calm even if you are not. This is one tool that I am constantly working on and will continuously work on for my entire life. Maybe it is easier for some than others. It is difficult to be calm after the 3,278th time of repeating directions. I don’t want my kids to hear me screaming like a lunatic and then have to leave the house.
- Give a choice. Do you want to eat breakfast first or get dressed? Does it matter what happens first as long as it gets done? The child can feel like they are in control.
- Use humor. Sing the silly songs. Tell some jokes. Or share some funny kid appropriate memes you have seen. Or look at some funny dog/cat videos online.
- Let the child talk about something they like. Ponies. Unicorns. Legos. Minecraft. Youtube sensations. Unboxing videos. Math. Friends at school. Weekend/vacation plans. Whatever it might. Listen.
- Avoid needing to get in the last word. Let your child know that you hear what they are saying, but you are done discussing.
- Ignore the behavior. Give them time to think. I like to use that time to get myself ready, clean up the kitchen, let the dog out, or just read the paper. It can take the wind right out of the sails when the child knows that mom/dad is not willing to engage.
- Say, “What would help you right now?” My favorite strategy. A few times, I have heard I want to do things my way. But other times, I have heard I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I want to relax in the shower, etc. I have learned that other needs have not been met. Once I can do that, we have a better chance of success.
All my best to you,