Getting Going in the Morning

I need some help with getting my nine-year-old daughter going in the morning. After her alarm clock goes off I have to remind her at least three times to get up. She plays with the cat and talks instead of eating her breakfast. She is so distractible that she can take 20 minutes in the bathroom! It doesn’t bother her to be late for school since she doesn’t get into trouble for lateness, so there is no natural consequence unless you count my irritability. What can I do?

I’m wondering whether you’re expecting too much of your daughter. She evidently doesn’t have the maturity to focus her attention and do things within a short time frame. Many young children are unable to do this.

Here are some ideas to prevent the problem from occurring:

  1. Can you get up earlier in the morning? That way she’ll have more time to get through doing the things she needs to do. The same with bedtime – can you start earlier? Young children are much more distractible than parents expect them to be, and it’s important to allow time for this rather than expecting them to be able to organize themselves like adults.
  2. Your daughter may have low blood sugar in the morning; many children do. A glass of juice right by her bed for her to drink before she does anything may help her get herself going.
  3. Your daughter is now old enough to be learning to read. Can you put up charts with reminders of what she has to do? She could help make the charts. One in the bathroom, one in the kitchen. She can check off when she’s completed something. The chart will replace your reminding and nagging. Your daughter is at the age when charts work best. She can feel proud of herself for completing a task and checking it off. You can use stickers on the cart for rewards.

We parents often protect our children from consequences that seem unpleasant for them, when those unpleasant situations are exactly what they need to motivate them to change. Here are two natural consequences you may not have allowed:

  1. Tell your daughter you won’t wake her up any more, and put her alarm clock on the far side of her bedroom, so it will ring and ring until she actually gets out of bed to turn it off. Then let it happen.
  2. If your daughter isn’t ready for school in time, take her there in her pyjamas, with her clothes in a bag. You may be rescuing her from this kind of natural consequence when she needs it to happen. If being late at school isn’t a sufficient consequence, the embarrassment of arriving in her pyjamas will be! I imagine it will only happen once.