Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

The Morning Rush

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > The Morning Rush


Questions Related Pages

Willful 3.5 yo and a FT job - HELP!

Nov 2007

My son is 3.5 and is in the classic stage of willfulness. Whatever shoes I bring, he requests different ones. If I give him a choice between oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, he simply snipes ''DIFFERENT!'' You get the idea. He kind of takes it to another level, though, and lately we've spent every single night and at least 3x a weekend day on what we call ''The Thinking Rug'' - time out.

I was complaining about my son to my mom and she said, ''You give him too many choices.'' I almost lost it. After calming down she conceded that she did not work when I was small, so if I refused to eat the oatmeal my mother was benevolent enough to make for me, she would sit at the table with me for HOURS until I either ate it or it was lunch time and she placed a new plate of food in front of me that I was unwilling to eat. I grew up getting hit, chased, and screamed at all the time.

I'd like to avoid that with my kids if possible ;) But she got me thinking - a lot of my bad choices with regards to my son stem from the fact that my husband and I NEED TO WORK and I don't have time to teach the lovely life lessons the way my mom taught them. We are regularly late for work because our son will spiral out of control so badly the morning grinds to a halt. It's worse with my husband because he has his own issues (lately when our son misbehaves he immediately verbalizes his disappointment by saying, ''Oh, great, there goes the morning,'' or ''I'm out of here - this sucks.'' - when I tell him to grow up and react like a parent, not some dude around kids, he tells me he can't help it) and I think my son is so bummed when he hears my husband so obviously disappointed that he hits my husband as a reflex.

In any case, what do all you FT working parents out there do when your kid is like this? I really don't think holding him down and forcing him to get dressed, giving him Cheerios whether he wants them or not, throwing his stinky bottom in the bath because he stinks. etc is the solution. But lately I find myself doing really stupid things with him (like today, running through ALL of his shoes until he just put ONE pair on without immediately pulling them off) simply because I do not have the hour it will take to show him that I am the current master of the house (hahaha). He is the kind of kid who will take it to the level of hysteria - my neighbors are quite familiar with the image of us walking in/out of the house with him flailing and screaming in our arms.

What do you do when it's 8am and your kid is refusing to get dressed? All of our previous tricks don't work any more. I should add that we also have a 1 year old who, while she's mellow and can self amuse, does require some of our time as well. Sheesh


Your son does not have too many choices, he has too few. At 3 1/2 he is responsible for getting dressed. He can choose to get dressed or not to get dressed. He can also choose what to wear.

Quick story. When my daughter was about the same age, a spirited child she is, we had similar battles. We tried everything. Having her chose her clothes the night before, choosing them for her. Hanging matching outfits on hangers. Finally I said what you wear is your job. You can choose to get dressed. If you choose not to get dressed I will take you to preschool in your PJs. Then I did - I took her to school in her PJs just like I said. The staff looked at me curiously, then engaged my daughter in play. Sometime during the day she chose to change clothes into something at the preschool. That was the end of our issues. Problem solved. She got dressed by herself every morning. Sometimes it was purple, orange and red - stripes, plaids and flowers on the same day - in the big scheme of life - do you want to get our of the house or do you want to control things?

By the way - I don't believe in time-outs to force compliance. It simply doesn't work because it's not a natural consequence for the behavior exhibited. My daughter is in control of her life


You'll get a TON of posts on this, I'm sure, so I'll be brief. Don't be afraid to put your child in the car in his pjs if he refuses to get dressed. Bring a change of clothes to school and if he wants to get dressed, he will. Once you break the cycle of battling with him it will be less enticing for him to argue. Just do this in a matter-of-fact way, e.g. ''It is time to go. If you choose to change out of your pjs at school I have packed clothes for you, but we're leaving now.'' Also, your husband would do better to stop the comments - it's only worsening the dynamic. Power struggles are pretty reinforcing for little kids so rising above it and refusing to take the bait is essential. I recommend the book ''How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk''. Good luck! anon
I am so sorry to hear of your troubles and know that this must be a stressful time for you! Know that you are not alone, but that this too shall one day pass -- ok, it will pass, but morph its way into your life in some other form -- I promise! We have 3 children. OUr first is VERY intense and persistent. I remember days as you explain like they were yesterday. It wasn't until I took a class based on the book ''The Spirited Child'' by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka did I get some tools that really worked. I found that I was so stressed about getting out of the house with my daughter who needed to do things her way that my behavior would escalate and in response, so would hers. I would get frustrated and angry and she would fall deeper into that pit of no return - howling, wailing,refusing to cooperate. The instructor of this class finally set me on a really helpful path that went something like this: Pick a weekend day where you have cleared the schedule and have nowhere to be at any specific time. When you ask your child what he wants to eat, give him a reasonable amount of time to respond. If he does, fix that item. If he does not respond, you tell him that you will choose (that would send my daughter over the edge as she had to be in control, so she would always choose something). When you fix it and he refuses it, you calmly tell him that that is what he chose for breakfast, and that is it for breakfast today. If he throws a fit, calmly tell him (I KNOW it is hard to calmly do anything at this point!) that you are setting the timer for 10 minutes. After that, breakfast is over. If he chooses not to eat, he will have to wait until snack time for more food.He will not starve if he chooses not to eat. Pack extra snack for daycare, or whatever makes you feel better to get through this! When the buzzer goes off, it is time to brush teeth,or whatever is next. Go through the same routine with everything else -- tell him what task is next, give him a time frame, SET A TIMER (it really helped my daughter to have this feedback instead of a nebulous ''time is up!''). If he does not get dressed, he goes to daycare in jammies (the closest we ever got to her wearing jammies at school was being in the car pulling out of the garage -- then she dressed herself in the car on the way to school and let me help when we parked. I am happy to talk with you offline about this, but it was a HUGE breakthrough for us. It has taken me 10 years to learn that she needs to have choices and know consequences and that we will follow through on the consequences. There are things that have to get done every day whether we like them or not -- getting them done in a timely fashion affords her privileges (like going to dance class). Good luck! trish
hello how unbelievably stressful to be given such criticism by your mother. My mother and father worked full time during my childhood and my brother and I were well aware what was expected of us e.g., manners, etc. I can only imagine how frustrated you are by your son but giving him 2 choices is fabulous!!! You might consider having him choose his shoes, clothes, etc., the night before so that there are less problems in the morning. In addition as much as you might not think it he is looking for attention albeit at times negative he wants it. I recommend a positive reinforcement approach such as a chart in your house that describes behaviors you would like to see such as picking out his shoes/clothes, getting dressed, as well as following any other parts of his typical routine and he earns a star each time he engages in them appropriately, X amount of stars equals a special outing with you or your husband or ice cream, etc. Best of luck...hang in there it is not easy but being positive is a greater teacher than punishment. Anon
If you have to get out of the house at 8am, then set your limit at 745 with the kid. My daughter was very willful also, and at some point I realized it's just not practical to let her change her clothes 14 times in a morning, and it's absolutely unnecessary. So you can start setting firmer limits, e.g.: the next outfit you put on is what you're wearing. That's it.'' and DO it. If he takes off his shoes, then bring him to school w/o his shoes. He'll scream, but he'll be fine, and eventuallyhe'll learn that screaming doesn't win. And he'll learn that he'll be fine. Really, you do have limits--eventually you WILL run out of time and choices--so why not make the limits more workable for you?

Sometimes the terrible twos don't show up till the ''trying threes.'' I'm pleased to say (knock on wood) that for the most part, my daughter now realizes I'm serious when I say that she's wearing whatever she's got on, or if she doesn't eat breakfast, then she's going to go hungry. till snacktime, anyway. I will add that when I realize she's tired, I present her with options that she's likely to agree w/ initially, to make it easier on all of us (and I get her in bed earlier the next night). And if I know she's going to have a problem w/ a particualr outfit or pair of shoes, I do sometimes pack an alternate into the backpack. Oh, and I am not at all opposed to forcibly cleaning a stinky butt. I usually apologize as I'm doing it, and I always remind her that there's an ''easy way'' to do it. We've had to do that w/ teeth brushing in the past too. Either you open your mouth and let me brush, or I open your mouth for you. She's now over 5, and we never have a tooth brushing fight, and we rarely have power struggles over getting ready (but we do always make sure that she's adequately fed & rested, which accounts for most of the bad behavior that we do get). My husband also recently started offering pennies for dressing in 2 minutes. Which she can do, apparently, when motivated. As for the nasty comments from your husband, oh, whole 'nother subject. But I do try to let mine know, in the nicest way possible, and at the most appropriate times I can possibly manage, that those comments don't help, and he is, after all, the grownup, don't forget. And when he just can't manage it, I think disrespectful thoughts of him, and I sometimes let a nasty comment slip if I'm under a lot of stress. Which is also not helpful, except for the stress balloon that would otherwise burst in my belly. My neighbors have seen my daughter perfectly well behaved, but they have also heard her screaming and being told that she is going to get into the car NOW. : )


Been there...and still there. We often wondered why people called it the ''terrible two's''...2 was fine, but 3 was really hard! After much of the same behavior you are describing, we met with Meg Zwieback. She's a nurse that specializes in behavioral issues w/kids. She totally recommended reading/using the tactics in ''1-2-3 Magic.'' It's a book you can get from amazon. Totally works (when we stick to it). We also both work FT, but the techniques are pretty simple. My son is now 4, still as strong willed as ever, but now we have a plan. Good luck! been there
I feel for you. Mornings are often challenging in my house as well. I know you say you have used all of your tricks, but here are a few of mine that I hope will help. We often have a race to see who can get ready first (no prizes or anything, just for fun) I sometimes tell my daughter that she can just go to school in her pj's if she can't decide. I also have begun waking them up earlier so they have time to waste (only 15 minutes or so but it makes a world of difference) and lastly, and this is the hardest one- it is really really true- if I can remain calm and not get stressed that I will be late, things go so much more smoothly. It is difficult at times, and then some days we are all ready 10 minutes too early! I agree- hubby needs to grow up! you don't need 3 kids to deal with. single mom
Hi, This may sound like it would add just one more thing to add to your morning routine, but I recently got really fed up w/ my 3 1/2 year old running away from me. I thought, ''Why do all of the other 3 1/2 year olds appear to stay camly by their parents' side...?!'' So we did 2 weeks of behavior modificaion, otherwise know as a sticker chart or rewards program, if you will. One evening I described the program to her. I said, ''Tomorrow we are starting a fun game! Every day that you listen to me (I specifically said at your brother's pickup after school, as that was problematic) by holding my hand and listening to me when I say stop, you will earn a sticker on your chart!'' She was intrigued. And we worked together on a ''prize'' for her efforts once 5 stickers were earned. She wanted a bike ride outing with Dad only. We posted the chart with 5 open boxes on the fridge and she was very proud of it, before day one and each day she earned a sticker. I was sure to make just the right # of boxes so she could have her reward the day she earned all 5 stickers. So I said, ''If you can behave every day this week, you can go riding w/ Dad on Friday! If you miss a day, you may have to wait until next week.'' That had impact. She was very excited and I myself was amazed at the enthusiasm and obiedience that followed. Now we are 5 steps forward in the listening dept in that particular situation. In fact, when we were done with 2 weeks of our little program, she asked how she could earn more stickers. So in short, rewarding your son when he does his part to help the family get out the door on time may help him see the light. Just keep his part of the deal age appropriate, tangible and simple and it just may help you, I hope it does. Anon
You are not alone! Both my husband and I work FT, and our daughter is similarly willful. I think it is even worse with a girl than a boy because you also have to deal with doing hair! Last year was completely awful. We HAVE to get out of the house on time every morning because her older brother can't be late to school. This is what you do: Just stop fighting with him. If he doesn't want to eat, then take him to preschool without breakfast. If he doesn't want to get dressed, take him to preschool in his pjs with his clothes and shoes (and even his toothbrush) in a bag. Give him a bath once a week (holding him down while screaming and yelling if necessary). I am not saying any of these measures will actually improve his behavior at all, but at least this way you will get to work on time and retain a little sanity. With my daughter, she was always much more cooperative about eating and getting dressed with the preschool teachers than she was with me, and they completely understood what was going on. This year she is in pre- kindergarten, and things have been slowly improving. It helps that her school offers breakfast, so we don't have to deal with that issue at all right now. Also, don't worry about what anybody thinks - people who have cooperative children really have no idea what it is like to have a willful child. I know this because my first child was/is very easy going and normal, and my daughter's completeley different temperment came as a huge shock. Good luck, and hang in there. In the same rocky boat
My husband and I also work full time and like you, we have a very opinionated 3.5 yr-old (plus a 7 mo-old). At some point our morning routines and evening meals, which have always been quite stressful, became intolerable Ė I donít want this shirt, I want that shirt; I donít want cold juice, I want warm juice; the juice is too hot now; etc. We realized pretty quickly that life canít continue like this without us loosing our sanity, so my husband and I had to re-think our previous fairly laid back, ďoh- itís-just-a-phaseĒ approach to our son.

Currently, when it comes to meals, he no longer gets a choice. I cook one dinner for the entire family and if he doesnít eat his portion, thatís fine, but he then has to wait until the next meal. I have to say that it was hard at the beginning not to give in and substitute the rejected dinner plate with a bowl of cheerios. However, bear in mind, that we have already modified most of our family meals to include kid-friendly food that I know our son generally likes and has eaten in the past (I wouldnít serve him spicy ceviche or sushi and expect him to eat it or else). I just had to remind myself that he is a very healthy boy with plump cheeks, so if he decides to miss a meal, he will survive. The bottom line, this approach worked for us and him like magic.

When it came to our own shoe drama, what Iíve done several times in the past was actually to hide all his shoes the evening before, leaving just one pair in the shoe bin and when he demanded to wear another pair in the morning, I just explained that thatís the only pair we have today and offered him to take a look in the bin. Somehow, not seeing an array of footwear to choose from was very convincing to him. Not sure if this would work on your boy, but itís worth a try.

Finally, one time when he was having a particularly nasty morning meltdown that seemed to have no end in sight, I said that we have to leave now or I will miss my BART and be late for work. Of course, that had no effect so I just left the house and stayed right outside the front door for about half a minute. I only had to do it once.

The bottom line is, the traditional disciplinary tactics, such as time outs, have absolutely no effect on our boy (and we donít scream or spank), so implementing this ďeach action has its consequenceĒ approach was the only thing that we could think of. And while he still has his moments (he is three after all, what did I expect!), I find that overall itís been a tremendous change for the better for our family. Good luck to you and your little ones. anon


Hi, You are right, 3 is a willful stage. I read a book called ''easy to love, difficult to discipline'' that helped a bit with thinking about how to give choices (and not too many of them). The books about positive discipline may help too. You and your husband could take turns in the morning to give one another breaks but abdicating in front of the child isn't productive and does give the kid a clue as to how to get alone time with mommy. what I loved about the difficult to discipline book is the importance she places on our own lack of self discipline. Deep down we can assume your husband doesn't want to model flying the coop when things get tough. We successfully had talks with my daughter at non contentious times that began: ''Time for a family meeting on mornings. They sure are tough. We need to all be problem solvers. What are some things we could do to make mornings fun and still get out to the house on time?'' What about picking out our shoes at bedtime? etc. good luck! been there
Honestly, I have been a SAHM and have worked full time with kids. It's still infuriating, the only difference is that you have more time to let them be infuriating when you stay at home but you have much less patience because you're stuck with them all day. 3.5 year olds drive all of us crazy! I would suggest if he doesn't want to eat what you give him then you pack an extra granola bar for daycare and leave without breakfast. If he doesn't want to wear shoes or pants then you put him in the car with no shoes or pants on and give them to the daycare provider when you get there....let him walk in his socks a few times...He's playing a control game with you at the time of day when he knows you are the most vulnerable. It means he's smart and well socialized but also he is trying to change his position in the pecking order. We had to leave without clothes and breakfast a few days and it all seemed so riduculous but it was worth it in the end...because your other child is watching all this and formulating what she's going to do when she gets the chance! Good luck, and remember, SAHM and WM have different but equally difficult parenting issues..give yourself a break... Been both, they both blow at times
This has nothing to do with you working full-time. AM
It does not take all morning to put your foot down! Here's what I do with my son. I allow him to watch TV for about an hour in the morning, but he must be fully dressed before the TV goes on. If you're not a TV family, is there some other part of your morning routine that your son especially enjoys? If so, make it conditional on his being dressed. (You could also try just taking him to preschool in his jammies, but only if you think he won't like that, since otherwise it may backfire!)

As for breakfast, tell him what his choices are, and if he yells ''different'', calmly tell him that those are his choices, and that you will be leaving for preschool on time whether he eats or not. Then, stick to your guns. It won't kill him to go to school with an empty stomach once or twice.

If he has a hysterical fit, let him have his fit -- but stick to your guns. What he's learned so far is that the more hysterical he gets the more choices you give him, and that he can delay his departure for school a good hour or more as long as he keeps it up. It will take him a while to unlearn this, but eventually he will. Kids are smart -- he'll figure out that you mean what you say as long as you really do! Good luck! Diane


I don't think it has to do with working full time. I think it has more to do with the child's age, personality/disposition, and parent patient level.

As a child, with a SAHM, I hated peas and refused to eat them. My mom would have me sit for hours until I ate them. When they got cold, she would heat them up again . . . On a good day, I would swallow them whole and gag and on most days I would find ways to sneak them into the garbage. I hate peas to this day! I refuse to fight about food with my 3.5 y/o. What's the point? I try to give him choices about everything and worst case scenario, he doesn't eat anything and life goes on.

As for getting dressed, that's another area where I don't want to fight. The other day, my son wore two different shoes (he thought that was so hilarious . . . it was actually). Yesterday, he wore shoes that were too tight (and told his teacher that I made him do that!). I try to leave enough time for getting dressed so that we're not rushing at the last minute (recipe for disaster).

You're doing a great job. This is the primary job of toddlers: to express their individuality and drive you crazy. It will soften a little and then return with a vengeance when they become teenagers. Cherish it now when it's just ''little stuff.'' we're already too hard on ourselves.


My daughter was the same way. If she was not ready by a certain time, I picked the clothes, shoes, and breakfast, put it all in a bag, put her in the car kicking and screaming and off she went to preschool. I only had to do this twice before she got the picture. When she was in kindergarten, the late thing reappeared, and I used stickers to get her to cooperate in the mornings. If she was dressed and fed by a certain time she would get a sticker. Five consectutive stickers and she would get a dollar. It was also important that she had slept well the night before. -- working mom
That must be hard. It sounds like your son is especially sensitive to your husband's escalation of the situation and rejection of himself -- saying ''There goes the morning!'' or ''This sucks!'' isn't helpful as far as teaching your son to make choices, or, more fundamentally, making him feel that his negative emotions are accepted and that he is cherished no matter what. He's such a little kid still. And if time-outs don't work, you might want to try something else instead.

Maybe you guys could think DEFUSE rather than ESCALATE, because it sounds like the tough approach is backfiring. Have you read Cohen's ''Playful Parenting''? It's pretty philosophical, but there's a great part where the author's daughter says, ''Daddy, could we play a game where we're running late in the morning, and you're the daddy, and you're mad at me, and you yell?'' She understood that humor helps a lot. Also, there's more of a bullet-pointed list of playful ideas in Pantley's ''The No-Cry Discipline Solution.''

Hang in there. And your husband needs to get a grip! No one can make us more furious than our kids, but we still need to stay in control and rise above our anger. (The Pantley book has a chapter on dealing with your own anger and disappointment at your child's behavior.) anon


Not sure if it makes you feel better but it is supposed to be a developmental stage that should be over soon. The advice I've heard/read is to get someone else to do these things because they will have better luck. I have had some success just not giving a shit (but you really have to not care). I have no problem sending my kid to preschool without breakfast. They have meals there so it isn't like he'll be starving all day. Or I'll bring a piece of toast in the car and hand that to him. If he doesn't want to eat his dinner, he has to sit at the table for like 5 minutes and then he can get down. We don't clear his plate so he can come back later and eat it (with one of us sitting at the table with him). I've brought him to school in his PJs though he begged me to change him before we went inside and I did. I'll put on his shoes in the car once he is strapped into his seat or bring them into school. I would rather he learn the consequences of bad behavior now when the result is being hungry for an hour than protect him from everything and have him learn when the consequence is killing himself by driving drunk.

Can you give your husband a timeout? Once, when I had just HAD it with the kids and was snapping at them and my husband, my husband said, ''Mommy, we don't talk that way to other people. You need to go in the office and have a timeout.'' So I got a little space then came out and apologized and the kids saw the rules applied to everyone.

We've worked hard to make sure that mornings aren't rushed and that also helps. Could you shift your day an hour one way and your husband an hour the other way (or even half an hour) and alternate daycare drop-off/pick-ups so the kids aren't there quite so much?

Also, when my son is being his worst, one of the most effective things I've found is to pick him up and cuddle with him, preferably with a snack he likes.

Good luck. This too shall pass


There are two books that I would recommend -- 'Positive Discipline' and 'Children the Challenge.' Both helped me with finding techniques to work with my children and their personalities and the challenges that they presented to me. You need to make time to read these books. I would read them from the second I got off work (8 pm) until I had to get up to go to work again the next day (7 a.m.)

To your specific case, you are not teaching your son about the consequences of his choices (not wearing shoes is a valid choice, though a potentially uncomfortable one). This isn't a case of working outside the home fulltime or staying at home to teach him the life lessons (my mother made me sit at the table with fried eggs in front of me for hours. I never ate the fried eggs and to this day, I still won't. Did I learn anything from it? Yes, authoritarianism is for the birds.) This is just a case of letting your son take advantage of you. He needs to respect you and you need to respect him. Tell him that he needs to put his shoes on. period. (or, give him two choices)..if he doesn't put them on, then leave the house without them (tuck them into his daycare bag so that he can enjoy the playground later). He may not enjoy the cold pavement on his feet. After a time or two of living with the consequences of his choice, he may be more willing to put on his shoes. If he doesn't want to eat breakfast, the don't make him. He won't starve if he dones't eat until lunch time. He may get hungry and next time remember that he may want to eat his breakfast when offered. Don't make a big deal about it. Just offer the breakfast. If he doesn't want it, just acknowledge that he isn't hungry and mention that maybe he'll have a better appetite at lunch. If he wants food between breakfast and lunch, well, that isn't your problem (literally -- someone else is caring for him, though you may want to give the stand-in a heads up)

And as an aside. Don't chalk up your struggles with parenting to working full time. Every parent struggles with parenting. I've worked full-time outside the home and I have worked full-time inside the home with my children. IMHO, working outside the home is a heck of a lot easier than working inside the home with your children (I currently work outside the home with children of similar age to yours). I always find myself a lot more refreshed to deal with the challenges presented than when I am with them full-time. -like choices and consequences


I don't have all the answers but here are a couple of ideas. When our kids wouldn't change into day time clothes, we would take them to preschool in their jammies with a bag of clothes. The preschool teachers were used to dealing with this now and then and made an impression on children who showed up in jammies. Don't think they were allowed to do anything other than sit until they changed into day time clothes.

Other idea - if giving them a time out doesn't get them moving, try giving their blanket a time out, or some other treasured object. ''If you don,t pick one of these three pairs of shoes by the time I count to 3, then Teddy Bear will have a time out. .. One, ... two ... Three (and follow through on the time out). Put the shoes in a bag and take him to day care with the bag if need be.

Don't worry about the neighbors. Most of them understand.

Tell your kid, ''If you don't pick one of these options by the time I count to 3, then I will pick one for you.'' Or, ''Here are your 3 options for breakfast. There are no other options. Please pick one by the time I count to three. One...two.....

When I have my act together, even now that my kids are older, rather than arguing with them and yelling, I tell them that if they don't do _________, then their book will be put away for the resto of the day (or no TV, or no _). The length of time increases with the severity of their act or the seriousness of our need for cooperation. Anon


You are right in that your husband could be much more helpful if he acted like an adult and wasn't so quick to express his defeatest attitude. If he reads, you could give him one of the books about how to communicate with kids (How to talk so your kids listen, or 1,2,3 Magic - or something like that). If he continues to not act like an adult around your child, he may need to seek out parenting classes with you, so that he can learn sooner rather than later. If that doesn't work, ask him to go to family counseling with you so that he can learn to work with you as a team to raise your child. Mom

Getting 3 yo and baby out of house in morning

Oct 2007

I would LOVE any suggestions people have for making mornings at our place more manageable. I'm about to go back to work in a few weeks and my 4-m.o. son will be joining my 3-y.o. son at daycare/preschool. We've been practicing getting out of the house so we arrive at school around 9 a.m., but my older son is starting to have more and more reasons to delay leaving the house and I'm worried I'll constantly be late for work.

School is a 15-20 minute drive away and is near where I work. It's taking us about two hours now -- WAY too long -- from kids' waking up to arriving at school.

Our constraints: husband as to leave v. early almost every morning so is not around when kids wake up around 7. Also, I'm still nursing the newborn and am trying to figure out his schedule so he doesn't wake up too early (needs attention and falls asleep before we get to school -- I'd rather he get a good nap there and not a catnap in the car).

But the big frustration is my older son and I feel bad b/c I always have to rush him, poor guy. He definitely loves preschool; once he's there it's fine. He just seems to hate playing alone in the morning and always wants to play Legos or pretend games with me, and turns to tears a lot when he gets frustrated. It's always ''I'm not done,'' or ''I have to finish making my X.''

I already try to get up and get ready before he's up but often he hears my husband leave and wakes up then. I've tried TiVoing Sesame St. but it's an hour long and doesn't help with finding the time to get breakfast or get dressed.

I guess I'm looking for advice on how to balance time with my older son and deal with his 3-yo-ness. Any tips? Thanks! Morning frazzled


If you can come up with a way to get yourself and two young children fed, washed, dressed and ready to go in the morning -- without help from another adult -- in under two hours, I'll be astonished. No, shocked. (Especially since that 2 hours includes a 20 minute commute.)

I think we tend to expect too much, too fast of three-year- olds. Especially when there's a baby sibling in the picture. My own stress level went way down when I just accepted that my then 3yo needed more help and attention in the morning, and stopped trying to get him to completely dress himself. He's 6 now and I still lay out his clothes for him most mornings, but otherwise he's able to get ready to go on his own.

I also think that attempting to avoid car naps for a 4 month old is pretty much doomed to failure, and you should try to just relax about that. Babies can go to daycare still in pajamas, so perhaps that's the best way for you to shave some time off your morning rush. (When my younger child was that age, I had to dress her early because I took her to work with me. But my husband did most of the job of getting the elder child off to preschool. ''Divide and conquer'' has fortunately always been a fairly workable strategy for us.)

Some other strategies that could help you with the practical obstacles: Have your husband put breakfast on the table before he leaves, so that the 3yo can go eat while you're nursing the baby. Wear your baby while you help the 3yo dress. Or play with your 3yo while also getting ready to go by laying out his clothes in your room and having a race -- who can get fully dressed first? (Watching this may entertain the baby too.) Ask the 3yo to help you wash and dress the baby (which is more about occupying the 3yo than about actually getting any help with the process). Good luck! Wishes I Could Sleep Later Too


Despite swearing I would never do this, I have started letting my preschooler watch TV while eating breakfast in the morning. That way he is entertained and getting fed. I can get the baby diapered /changed and get lunches made during this time. That may not solve all your problems, but it frees up some time. Amy
Dear Morning Frazzled, First of all, you are not alone in your challenge. Here are a few suggestions:

1)Be mindful of your own attitude: Often times as moms we are already anticipating the stress, battles and challenges before they arise. This is partially good because it helps us prepare for what may come. However, this is partially bad because we then put off an attitude or energy which communicates to our kids (whether we know it or not) that we already know this is going to go bad. I would suggest that you first sit down and think through how you really want the mornings to go and how you want them to feel. Put that vision in writing and see what ideas come up from that place as far as how you may best create that type of environment. You can then share that with your son and make him part of creating the plan; "If we want our mornings to be enjoyable and smooth so that we can all get where we need to be on time, what can we all do to make that happen?"

2)Put the plan in writing and post it where everyone can see it: This is a great time to teach and model what will be necessary to follow in school; "We have a plan and structure in place for a very important reason and we all have to do our part to make this work."

3)Be consistent: This is most challenging when you are tired and stressed and already running late, but consistency is really key in helping children adapt to new situations and routines (it's also really helpful for adults too!).

How your structure will look may be very different then anyone else's, but I find that parents who focus on the overall vision and feeling they want the situation to take, tend to be much more creative in the solutions that will work for their family. How can you make this a game that the entire family participates in? How can everyone get involved in creating enjoyable and smooth mornings which gets everyone out the door at the necessary times by incorporating certain actions the night before and in the morning?

If you want help strategizing and creating your own family vision and plan for success, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary coaching consultation. Besides being a mom myself, I am a life strategy specialist and coach who specializes in helping moms feel more efficient and effective at work and home. NT


I remember that phase! What I would recommend is doing as much prep the night before as is possible. Can you shower the night before? Make lunch the night before? Pick out everyone's clothes the night before? Have diaper bag set up and ready to go? Then pick a time you want to be leaving the house and shoot for 20 minutes before that. Give him a series of time warnings....''10 minutes til blast off...5 minutes til blast off....2 minutes til blast off...'' that kind of thing. And then don't be so hard on yourself! You are in the thick of things...what I found to be the most difficult part of 2 kids those ages. Cut yourself some slack. Is your employer flexible with your arrival time? Can you put in an extra few minutes if you are late? Even if punctuality is valued, a 3-yr old being tardy is not something you should stress on too hard...especially with a newborn. The most unexpected compliment I got came one morning when we were arriving 30 min late to preschool. We were not stressing, just accepting...and a mom I envied (always on time, always put together and dressed well, etc.) said ''you are my idol. You are never stressed even though you are always late. How do you do it? I really wish I could be like that!'' Made my year! Hang in there. It does get easier. Had 2 too
First, if you decide to change up your morning routine remember it might take some growing pains to transition (no matter what you end up choosing to do) but you can do it! Here are some things that work for us. In all honesty, it still takes us about 1.5 hours. We have a 3 y/o and a 12 month old.
1. Do AS MUCH as possible the night before: pick out clothes (for EVERYONE!!!!), pack diaper bags, lunches, EVERYTHING! :)
2. No eating breakfast until pjs are off and clothes are on
3. No playing with toys until breakfast is over
4. This one is a BIGGIE for me: *I* have to get up at least 15-20 minutes before the kids so at a minimum I can shower and get dressed ~ sometimes even get hair and face together.
5. If all is done with success, a toy gets to come w/ us in the car, otherwise, it stays home

Good luck! --doing the morning mamba--


We have the exact same situation, but I have leave before 7:40AM to make it to work on time. I agree, the problem is mainly getting the older (3 y.o.) child out the door. You can always get the infant clipped into the carseat and ready to go, but you have to plead, bribe, manipulate the reluctant older child through breakfast, getting dressed, getting into the car, etc. What works best is shortening the morning routine and eliminating as many steps/transitions as possible. Tricks that helped: dressing the older child in his clothes (instead of pajamas) the night before, so he wakes up already dressed for school. Having breakfast in the car (something easy to hold, like a toasted frozen waffle, a breakfast bar... we're talking survival, not nutrition) which eliminates the whole meal transition. Setting expectations the night before very clearly so he knows tomorrow is a school day, we have to leave early, etc. You can put on a short (20 min) Baby Einsteins or Dora (TiVo is great for this) in the AM while you get yourself and baby ready and let him know when it is over it is time to get in the car. It is very stressful when you have a time constrant, and in the end you may have to carry him crying and protesting to the car when you have to go. I have done this many times, but remind myself that once he settles down in daycare/pre-school he has a great time. Good luck and I'm looking forward to other responses. Working mom of 2
Here's what we do (7 & 3 yr old)....The kids take a shower the night before & I also set their clothes out the night before including socks and shoes. Immediately upon getting up, we wash faces and brush teeth. Then we get dressed. We only have cold cereal during the week, so while I get ready for work, I put on a morning show for the kids to watch while they are eating their breakfast. That's it...it takes us exactly one hour to do all that and be out the door. However, we have the same routine each and every morning so the kids know what is required of them and there are no surprises to argue about or choices to make. Nicole
Here's our routine (we have a 3.5 year old and a 15-month old and have been doing this since March). We are past the nursing milestone, but you can probably adapt it).
Goal: out the door at 7:45am

I wake up at 6am either alone or with the baby. 
Change baby. 
6:30 - 6:50 Feed baby breakfast in high chair
Put baby in room in some sort of time-occupying situation. 
6:50 - 7am Dress myself. 
7am Tell 3yr old to wake up, very nice and gentle like. 
7:05 Dress baby. 
7:10 Turn on bright lights and tell 3yr old breakfast is getting cold (he
eats oatmeal or waffles). 
7:11 Put on makeup. 
7:14 check work email for any mishaps that happened.
7:15 Tell son to wake up or I'll start counting. 
7:16 Start counting to ten. This gets 3yr old out of bed. 
I don't know why. 
7:17-7:30 3yr old eats. 
7:30: brush teeth with 3yr old
7:30-7:45: dress 3.5 year old, pack kids into car and leave. 
Something like that....;-)
leavin on time come hellorhighwater

Morning struggles with 4-year-old

Nov 2005

HELP! I feel like I'm going to lose it every morning. I THINK my 4 year old is typical, but I feel like I need advice about handling the constant ''negotiation'' over EVERYTHING in the morning. She won't eat breakfast (I have to play games or actually ''feed'' her), she won't get dressed, she won't brush her teeth, and she won't brush her hair -- none of these unless we go through games, negotiations, battles, whatever I can think of on that particular morning. I try thinking of creative games: ''let's pretend I'm the dentist and you have an appointment'' -- that sometimes works. I try ''bribing/threatening:'' ''if you want to play with your doll you can do it while I brush your hair'' or ''your doll will have a time out if you don't cooperate.'' I try being ''firm:'' raising my voice and saying ''that's it,'' and getting angry (which I am). Maybe I am too inconsistent!! But NOTHING seems to work and I am SO discouraged by the time we get out the door. I could try using stickers (''you get a sticker if you cooperate on hair and teeth, and when you get 10, we do [something special]'') but I've heard that is not a good way to teach self-discipline (i.e. they learn to work for bribes). This all feels like a testament to my ability (or lack thereof) to discipline her. HELP!! telegraphhill


I feel your pain! I have had issues in the past with getting my 4.5 year old out the door in the morning and I found the ''reward'' method you spoke of to be quite helpful. About a year ago we put a chart on the fridge of morning and evening ''Routine'' steps. (we were having bedtime issues at the same time) The Morning routine is 1)Breakfast, 2)Get Dressed (including shoes and socks) 3)Brush teeth 4)Brush Hair. When My daughter did all of this without stopping to play or dawldle excessively she got a stamp. 5 morning and 5 evening stamps - 1 movie rental - a good incentive for her.

Successful tricks to making this work were 1) get up a little earlier to give her time to dawdle. Kids hate it when you say ''hurry up - you're going to be late'' it slows them down! 2)Don't repetedly tell them what they should be doing. ASK them what they should be doing. ''Great job Susie, you ate your breakfast, what do you do next?'' or ''Susie, are you supposed to be playing with your doll now?'' instead of ''stop playing and eat your breakfast.''

Every morning is not smooth as pie here but after about 2 months we were able to stop with the stamps. So she did not get addicted to the reward! We refer to getting ready as ''doing her Routine'' and I can generally get her re-focsued on the crazy days by just saying ''Hey - Routine?'' or reverting back to asking her what she is supposed to be doing. Good luck! Jen


Your 4-year-old is typical. I remember those morning struggles so well!! And, yes, you do have options. My first recommendation is to check out ''Positive Discipline.'' If you Google it, you'll find that they have books, workshops, etc. Their approach was very helpful to us.

Have you considered letting your daughter go to school without breakfast and/or in her pajamas? At this age, you have to pick your battles. Leave more of these decisions up to her. Kids this age want to assert their will and feel some independence, so let 'em - at least when it comes to things that do not matter as much in the long run. Teeth brushing was something I was more firm about. But still I tried to offer choices: who will brush your teeth first, you or me? I also talked about why teeth brushing was so important to me. I showed the many fillings in my teeth, and that was quite interesting to my child. We have also always told our daughter that if we do not get cooperation with hair brushing, her hair will be cut short so that brushing is not as important. Our message was something like, ''Hey, don't brush the hair for my sake; I really don't need you to have pretty hair. That choice is yours.'' That approach can be applied to breakfast, dressing, etc. (Of course, if your child is at risk for malnourishment, that is another story.) I remember when a mom brought her child to school one day in her underwear (clothes in a bag), and that was the last morning they fought about that issue.

Rereading this, I wonder if this might sound cold and unloving, but it is really just respecting the child's independence in an arena where she wants it and where it is safe to do so. And isn't that what parenting is: gradually giving up the control and decision-making power so that the child can learn to take over for him- or herself? Burr


Morning meltdowns getting 2.5-year-old ready

July 2002

Hi, I know its been handled on this forum before in a theoretic discussion, but I would very much appreciate hearing how you handle this yourself and any tips. My daughter 2.5 years, just started fulltime montessori July 1, when I started working full time. (8:30- 5:30). Before that she had been going 9-2:30, while I was still at home. We cant seem to get out the door in the morning w/o at least 1 episode of crying. Sometimes she doesnt want to brush, sometimes she doesnt want to eat, sometimes she wants me to hold her all morning, specially when I sit to breastfeed my 5M son before we leave. Today, she had a full blown meltdown. She didnt want to brush her teeth, so I said, she cant have breakfast till she does. She sat in the bathroom for a full 45 minutes, alternately crying and calm, basically toying with me- saying she would brush and then changing her mind. Finally when she saw I was ready to leave and was not going to give in, she let her teeth be brushed. She then cooperated to have her clothes changed, but started up again, when I took my son for a feed. In the end, I had to stop feeding my son and give him to my aunt ( who cares for him while Im at work) and just pack up and leave with my daughter. Today was really hard for me- I was in tears at the optionlessness of it all- Sorry for winding on and venting, but I really need advice- Im sure I feel worse partly because of guilt- I just started working and this is all new to my daughter as well. Help! anon


She sounds tired to me. Try to get her to bed early enough so that she wakes up herself in the morning -- preferably an hour or so before you have to leave. This is a big change for everyone and you can all handle it better with enough sleep. At this point, you need to prioritize sleep at the top of the list, sacrificing everything else, including dinner together, stories, baths if necessary. It will ease. Good luck. Barbara
You need a regular morning routine that minimizes fuss and is fun, or at least calm, for you and your daughter. After all, you want to go to work having had a nice morning with your children. In light of this you may have to sacrifice some principles a little bit. Most meltdowns occur for two reasons: your child is tired and/or hungry. The proximate cause may seem to be breastfeeding your son, or not wanting teeth brushed, but the real underlying reason why your child is unable to cope with these things is that she is either hungry or tired or both. I hope that your child is not tired when she wakes up in the morning, but if you have to wake her up, or if she has been up during the night, or went to bed late, she may well be. If those things are the case you need to work on your nighttime sleep/bedtime issues. In any case, it is certainly true that after a night of fasting your child is hungry.

First order of business in the morning should be breakfast. Teeth are better brushed afterwards, so don't even try to brush them before breakfast. Many hungry children refuse to eat, and adamantly deny that they are hungry. I have found that when children won't eat in the morning, you need to prime the eating pump. Give them something you know they will eat that has at least some nutritional value to get them into the whole eating idea, and raise their blood sugar enough that they are not frantic. A small cup of juice, a small piece (1/4) of a chocolate balance bar (! -- feel guilty about this, but at least it has protein and vitamins), whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes or french toast with syrup, cheerios, raspberries or strawberries with a little sugar (NB- slippery slope, may refuse to have them without sugar) have all worked for us. Usually, they will then have calmed down enough to eat healthy food. If not, then at least their behavior will have improved owing to the sugar and calories. I have found that a breakfast served in front of an educational video gets my children to sit and eat for longer than if they were not entertained during breakfast. If I am not running around I read to them during breakfast, which also keeps them seated long enough to have a decent meal. While your child eats and plugs in or you read to her (you can chose short videos of 15-20 minutes, so as to minimize morning TV time) you can breastfeed your son.

After your child has eaten, everything should be easier! Never get into a showdown with a hungry child (as in toothbrusing incident). Hungry children are completely irrational and unable to make good choices. Hysterical crying is practically guaranteed. All mandatory unpleasant activities should follow eating!!

If you need to breastfeed your baby again before going out, make sure to have some activity ready for your older child. Put out markers and paper, scissors and paper or straw or ribbon to cut 2.5 year-olds just love to master scissor use with endless snipping, playdough, watercolor paints, playdough or clay and toothpicks to make ''sea urchins'' kinda dangerous, maybe, but my 2-year-old LOVES it. (By the way, if you decide to allow the use of toothpicks, you will find that any food served on the end of a toothpick is inherently more attractive and delicious than any food not on a toothpick --- at least to a 2-year-old) Or, if creativity fails, video again may be called for. Great educational videos for 2-year-olds ''See How THey GRow'' series (see how pets, insects, pond animals, etc. grow ), Microcosmos, I Dig Dirt. You can talk to your daughter about the animals/trucks while you breastfeed your baby, so it's a little more interactive and less electronic-babysittery. susan


Wow! Guilt is so powerful! I can relate a bit- though our morning meltdown situation wasn't complicated by a 5M old but we recently moved to the East Bay (sort of unexpectedly) and our almost 3 yr old's morning schedule changed quite a bit. Instead of leaving the house at 8ish two mornings a week, she has to leave w/ me and sometimes her dad at 7:15 or 7:30 3 or 4 times a week and commute to SF and she started a new class at her same preschool. It took a few weeks for us all to adjust but those meltdowns are killer! The pressure to leave the house, the rage their stubbornness makes us feel and the guilt for imposing stuff on them. I'd say - what if she skipped brushing her teeth in the A.M. a few times (they're baby teeth after all and a week won't kill them!) and skipped breakfast- ate nothing at all or just fruit or a bagel in the car, for example. Just to give her a little feeling of control and nothing to fight about. I think I'd try choosing your battles- she can't wear pjs to school. Good luck. I can empathize. LSG
Do you see that she is going through enormous changes right now? A new sibling, mom is working fulltime, and she's in preschool. Assuming that she (and you) were at home fulltime before this would be a heavy load to dump on her - no wonder she is balking at going to preschool.

You can't take the sibling away :), but you can get her into a more nurturing situation (nanny instead of preschool? friend instead of preschhol? aunt instead of preschool?) or you could change your work schedule.

If you can't change your work schedule and must keep her at daycare, you need to address her feelings. Determine if she feels she's being abandoned and/or there are simply enormous changes. Enlist her help - see what might make it easier to get things going in the am.

Dump the little things. She can brush her teeth at preschool. Let her sleep in her daytime clothes so you don't have to get her dressed first thing. Make a breaskfast she can eat in the car - little things so that all she has to do is walk from bed to the car. Course that's assuming you can get her into the car. :)

Make sure that she understands that you understand her feelings. She'll still rant and rave - but that's ok - she's just getting her feelings out - and if she feels understood, it will probably be a shorter rant/rave (so far this has worked with 3 out of my 4 kids - 4th is too young to tell).

So, long story short, in your place on that morning, I simply would have given up the toothbrushing and sat on the floor with her and reflected her feelings to her - while nursing the baby - and nursing her too (is she weaned?). If she is weaned, then, holding her on my lap (I have a 2.5yo and a 9mo, so I do this from time to time :)). I would have continued getting ready; talking to her, reflecting feelings and gradually (cause you can't reflect feelings forever) started talking about the day ahead and what we were going to do. WHile talking, nursing the baby (slings are great for that) and getting ready I would have made a special breakfast for her that she could eat in the car. Maybe at night you two could make her breakfast ahead of time - she could ''order'' what she wants and the two of you could make it up - might make mornings a little easier.

Anyway, if you could read through the rambling, there might be an idea or two in there. kathy


I know exactly how you feel! What I did with my little one is dress her in cotton outfits to sleep in, which she wore to preschool the next day. I have breakfast items that she likes, and offer a treat in the car seat once we are in the car (a handfull of gummy bears, or something small like that). I don't worry too much about brushed hair or teeth, if we are having a hard morning. A kid's tape in the car helps, too (there are ones with stories or kid's music. I let her choose).

I feel the rush and the frustration that you express in your message (we, too, have an infant), but it will work out! Good luck to you! Another working mom


I work full time in the city, have a 2y/7mos old daughter that also goes to a montessori school full time. 4 days a week. I do not have a second child which makes my mornings perhaps a little easier than yours...

1. Your daughter has a lot on her little plate: mami is gone + she is dispatched to school + there is this other little person around.....

2. You are possibly running high on guilt about going to work and your daughter feels it.

Here is what we do: first I am always VERY happy to go to work, 'Mamma goes to work, daddy goes to the boathouse, I go to school. HOW COOL!'' We LOVE going to school and to the office! It helps that I do like my job but even when I felt like burning my office down I was always very upbeat about it !

We try to make morning interesting, not rushed, even if I am terribly rushed as i have to make it to the office by 9.00... I try to get up earlier, put myself somewhat together and wake her up so that we can snuggle for a little while.. This morning we were playing puzzles at 6.30, then we had do rearrange the dollhouse but we found time to hung the laundry together.... I give her little chores ''here is mamma lunchbox can you put it in my bag?''... she likes to help and it keeps her going. And there is no time for whining

She gets to choose what she wants to wear, even if it is her pijiama... and what she wants for breakfast... if she does not want to eat we take one of these squeazable stonefield yogurt, a few almonds or raisins, and a bottle of milk and we go in the car. Teeth, hair, etc... are all optionals... The goal is to get out of the house by 8am and happily, we will concentrate on looks later on

Granted, not all mornings are perfect....(and I do not have a second kid but perhaps a sling could help, I still use it when my daughter is in hugging-mode) Could the person who takes care of your son perhaps come a little earlier (?) so that you can have more one-on-one time with your daughter? In my case my husband (who generally leaves the house very early) , comes back home two mornings a week (and than goes back to work) so that he can take my daughter to school a little later than usual. This makes things interesting as we (parents) do things diffently, he takes her for breakfast at the cheeseboard, or they drive me to bart this also helps to ease the departure

I have also took my daughter to see my office: she saw her pictures on my desk, one of my collegues made a paper airplane for her, we went home using the train now she speaks about it and it helps her visualize where mamma is when mamma is at the office. Good luck silvia


I've looked at the replies to this topic, and I'd like to add something that hasn't really been brought up. Does your daughter like her school? Does she like it but some aspects are very challenging? Could there be some issue underlying her morning meltdowns? Louise

Leaving the House on Time

Feb 2000

Please help me with your suggestions on getting a child and mom out the door HAPPILY on weekday mornings. My son is 8 1/2 and I am a single mom trying to get to work by 8:30 a.m. He wants me to get him up earlier (alarm clocks don't awaken him) however, if I get him up at 7:00 he wants to take a shower, then he stands in there for 10-20 minutes, he can't find this or that, comes to breakfast half dressed, then just when I'm walking out the door he can't find his backpack, and the rest of his homework, when I had asked him earlier to gather this stuff. All of these problems are not new, we have battled over the same thing weekly, over the past few years. Uggh. I'm SO tired of having to ask him to do every little thing EVERY DAY (often being ignored)! And I hate being a nag, and feel very guilty, when I start saying mean threats (like, you will have to pay $5 for every wet towel left on the ground.) And it is very hurtful and frightening when my son responds with "why don't you move to New Jersey!" etc. There are a lot of good aspects to our relationship and i don't want to damage these. Obviously, neither of us is doing a good job solving our morning problem. I'm wondering what people mihgt have to offer for suggestions. Thank You.


To the mom and 8 1/2 year old who need help getting out the door. This is tricky because kids don't understand time the way adults do, and don't understand the consequences of being late. What we finally did at our house, which so far is working quite well, is establish a system of positive rewards. Our daughter is 9, and our son is 5, and we have gone through what it sounds like you are going through now. We need to leave the house by 7:45 to get everyone to their respective school rooms and workplaces on time. So, we've told the kids that they need to be ready by 7:35. If they have eaten breakfast, dressed themselves, brushed their teeth, and brushed their hair by that time, they get a sticker on the calendar. If, at the end of the month, they have a sticker on 90% of the days (we don't count weekends and holidays), they get a book or toy of their choice. If they have earned stickers on less than 90% of the days they get an extra popsicle or ice cream cone. They protest very loudly if they do not earn a sticker, but you have to stick to it to make it work. And it does work.
Hi, your story sounds just like my life up to two weeks ago. My son is 9, and getting out of the house, or into bed on time has been worse than a challenge. I could never get him to do anything, like shower, brush his teeth or do his homework without a struggle that usually ended up involving threats of dire consecuences or bribes of some sort, he was very dependent on my doing things for him. Our interactions always became verbally combative. I hated the way we talked to each other. He was very unhappy.

My son as of two weeks is a cooperative, happy child. He pops out of bed each morning and immediately proceeds to dress himself, brush his hair etc. He packs his backpack with his lunch, gets his violin, remembers to put his homework in, puts his shoes on with no argument, etc. etc. I have to hurry to keep up with him and do my part like have his lunch ready and get his breakfast. We haven't had an argument in two weeks about what he's having for breakfast (he used to not answer me when I'd ask him what he wanted then he'd have a fit because he didn't want what I'd prepared). When we come home from school he rushes to do his homework if he hasn't finished it at his afterschool care (I couldn't get him to do it there before), he asks if he can take his shower before dinner, he comes running to dinner when I call, and does a chore, practices his piano, gets ready for bed and calls me to read to him. All of this without may saying one single thing. I don't remind him, I don't push him! My life has changed. I have time now in the evenings!

How? What book did I read? Method did I apply? Well, it's called the "Dry erase board method". Two weeks ago, through a misdunderstanding I ended up getting my son a dry erase board. He was having an anxiety attack all the way home trying to figure out what he would use it for. Then he decided I would use it to write his schedule. He divided the board in half and asked me to write his morning schedule on one side and the afternoon schedule on the other. In the mean time he used his bulleting board to pin up what he wanted for breakfast the whole week. The next morning I whispered in his ear "get up, it's 7:30 and you need to get up to stay on schedule". He popped out of bed and that's the way it's been ever since. Now he challenges himself to beat his schedule so his free time (which he gets in the morning and the afternoon) is longer. He's happy, cooperative and now does things I don't even ask. He loves not being told what to do and feels like he's in control. I hope this helps. If you want to talk more about it please post your email or ask the moderator to forward an email to me. I'd be happy to talk to you.


My son is only 3 1/2 years old. But, unfortunately, we often have the same problem in the morning. My solution to this problem has been to prepare everything the night before. For example, my son chooses his own school clothes for the next day, -- including underwear, socks and shoes, jackets, hats, etc. -- and places them on his dresser so that he can easily find them in the morning. (I have removed all "summer clothes" from his closet so that they are not a option from which he can choose.) He takes a bath / shower the night before. He only washes the critical areas in the morning, i.e., his face, his teeth and his private parts. All homework is completed and placed by the front door. At night, I check to ensure that his clothing choices are appropriate, that his homework is in his bag and that his bag is by the door.

In the morning, I wake him up 5 - 10 minutes before I really want him up. This gives him time to fully wake up, to stretch and to yawn before he needs to get into gear.

The only time that this "plan" has not worked, is when my son decides that he wants to wear something other than what he has chosen the night before. In this case, I remind him that he chose this particular outfit. If he wants to wear something different, he has to wait until tomorrow. If he continues to argue or whine, he will forfeit t.v. time or a special snack / dessert later in the evening. I stick to the "punishment" in the evenings with a reminder that "this morning's behavior is the reason why you do not get XYZ". I also do not stand and argue with him in the morning. When I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go. He knows that he had better be ready as well. Inevitably, he picks up the pace so that I don't leave him (which I have never done). I'm not sure how well this will work on an 8 year old.

I am sorry that this has gotten long-winded. But, my point is that taking a few extra minutes at night seems to save alot of headache and heartache in the morning.


My advice on leaving the house on time is to get as organized as possible the night before. This means taking baths or showers, making lunches, choosing and laying out clothes and shoes, getting homework in backbacks and jackets located and on the couch, and anything else that can be done early. I have two kids to get out the door, a 7 year old girl and 10 year old boy, and my husband and I change off who gets this task. The other one gets to say good bye and escape before the race begins. No TV in the morning either. This is brutal, but in order for the kids to get enough sleep and for my husband and I to get to work before 8:00, I wake them up at 7:00 and we're out the door by 7:20 or so, assuming all goes well. The best we do for breakfast is toast or dry cereal, eaten in the car, but neither child is at all hungry in the morning and eats more at snack time. Of course, I'd love to tell you that the kids do all the organizing the night before, but in fact, I do it. Not a pretty picture, but all they have to do is get up, get dressed and go, and it works for us. In fact, half the time, I get the 7 year old dressed, just to keep things moving. Good luck - there don't seem to be easy answers for all of us who don't have morning people for children.
As the mother of 3 procrastinators, the youngest of whom is 8, all of whom are very disorganized, I have some thoughts on your problem. First, get the backpack and homework organized and at the front door before going to bed. Make sure you know where the shoes, clean clothes, etc. are at night, too. Will your son respond to clothes laid out for him, or (like my 8 year old) will he just crumple those up like they are dirty (leaving you more washing to do) and pick out others. If he'll put on what's laid out for him, get that out at night too. For the shower in the morning (I assume he won't do it at night), set limits on how late it can be for him to still get a shower. If he isn't in by a certain time, he can't shower then. (Wish I could get my 12 year old to shower at all!!!) I have to say if I waited for my 8 year old to get everything together, it would never happen. When he's done with his homework, I take it and put it in his backpack. The 12 year old never remembered anything for school at 8, or 9, or 10, but now is very good about packing everything up (usually at night), so there is hope! Good luck.
re getting out of the house in the morning: My son is 9, and we finally came up with a list of things that he must do in the mornings. It's posted in his room and on the fridge. I listed the things in order and broke them down into fairly small steps: eat breakfast; clean up breakfast dishes; put on shirt; put on pants; brush teeth; check that homework is in backpack; check that lunch is in backpack; put backpack by the door; put on socks; put on shoes; put on sunscreen; feed fish and cats (his job); clean up room. Obviously, I put the most crucial items first. He really likes the sense of independence that this list gives him. And I don't have to remember and carp and remind him what to do. All I say is, "What's next on your list?" He'll usually consult it and proceed. (He rarely gets to the last item, but it's helpful to have it there for times when he IS ready and is bouncing around distracting ME.) You might consider some sort of reward system by which he earns points for completing his list without reminders for X many days. Or let him do some cherished activity in the morning AFTER he's completed the list to your satisfaction. (My kid, an avid reader, has to finish his list before he can read!) Also, rather than nagging, just let your kid suffer the consequences of not having his homework ready to go or not having his lunch in his pack. This may sound a bit harsh, but my kid got a lot more responsible for his belongings when he had to give up a recess for having forgotten his homework, for example, I think it's a good idea to have input from the kid when coming up with the list, so he feels he has some control over how his day starts. As for the shower ... tell him it's at night or not at all. We have also gone thru periods during which my boy puts on his clean clothes at night and sleeps in them.
Read the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber& Elaine Mazlish. It will give many more tips than I can. But writing things on lists and having things ready the evening before helpss. It is of course easier said than done as everyone is exhausted at night. Good luck!
This is a classic problem. I don't know how many times I've heard this hashed out at PTA meetings and other parent get-togethers.

One thing no one ever thinks of: Leaving the house by 8:30 every morning probably isn't your idea of a nifty way to start the day; it's just the way things are. Therefore, the consequences of not being ready come to your son from the larger world. The only things you HAVE to do are:

1. Offer him food
2. Get him to school
3. Make sure he wears a seat belt
4. Do not abuse him in the process.

Things you are not ultimately responsible for include:
1. What s/he's wearing
2. Whether s/he eats
3. Whether s/he brings what s/he needs for school
4. How s/he feels about all this.

By the time a child is 8, s/he is ready to take responsibility for the second list. I suggest you phase yourselves in to this approach. Start by talking about it; maybe say you want to start a new approach, you will start doing it this way next week. Then help him walk through how he can prepare himself (what can he get ready before bed the night before, shall you still wake him and and what time, etc.).

Backup plans include: 1. Put some clothes in a paper bag and, if she's not ready on time, take her in her PJ's and the clothes to change at school. Most children will make sure they're dressed when they realize you will really take them to school in their PJ's; if not, you won't have to do this more than once or twice.

2. If you can't bear to send your child to school on an empty stomach, keep a package of undesirable crackers in the car. These are the kind that no one wants to eat when they get the munchies, but a person who is really hungry will eat them. This way they will be there when you want them.

3. You may have to be brave about the homework that gets left at home. If it's not possible for you to get it, it's better for your child to get a bad grade in grade school than to believe that they can be irresponsible and Mom or Dad will fix it.

4. You may also have to be brave about your child's feelings about facing unpleasant consequences and having to do things they don't want to do. As long as you think the consequences are actually not going to be that traumatic (not likely in this case), it is better for your child to face the consequences of his irresponsibility now than when he is older and the consequences are much more severe.

I know this sounds severe. However, you didn't make a world that requires children to be at school when they would rather be asleep or watching TV. Your job is to teach them how to meet these obligations, and it isn't easy. It takes a lot of courage and a willingness to let your child be unhappy about the way things are. It isn't your fault. I hope this helps. ---------- Here are some strategies that work for me to get myself and 1 1/2 year old out the door on time in the morning. I don't know about you, but I am often in "time-denial" and think I can get more done than is possible in a given amount of time.

- Prepare as much as possible the night before: lunches (yours and his), backpacks, coats, shoes, keys, etc. Put all things by the door (other than lunches, of course). If you are apt to forget the lunch in the fridge, put a note on top of the backpack.

- Make a commitment with yourself to leave the house at a time that gives you plenty of time to get in the car and get to your destination. It's a wonder what arriving early will do for your stress level. You may find that with a more relaxed attitude on your part, your son will be more cooperative.

- Not having an eight year old, I can't say what amount of time is right for a shower, but 20 minutes sounds like too long. What about using a timer (maybe a fun one in the shape of an animal or vegetable -- available at cooking stores) so that he knows when he has to get out of the shower. Perhaps this is a case where a reward system is merited. I recall a parent describing a system she used for her child who wanted to sleep in the parents' bed that might work for you. It involved having a jar of marbles, maybe twenty or so. Everytime the child did the desired behavior (sleeping in her bed all night), she got to take a marble out of the parents' jar and put it in her own. As she continued to do the desired behavior, her jar of marbles grew, and that's something every kid can appreciate. If she chose to sleep in her parents' bed, then she had to give them a marble. Once she had all the marbles in her jar, she got a reward of her choice which was decided upon at the start of the whole process. Perhaps this will work with your son. If he takes his shower in 10 minutes or less, then he gets a marble. If he goes over, he has to give you a marble. As soon as he has all the marbles, he gets the reward you have mutually decided on in the beginning. I hope some or all of this helps. Good luck!


I assume you are already getting as much done the night before as you can---that homework should be in his backpack before he goes to bed.

As for the other stuff --- How about offering him a reward for getting ready to walk out the door on time? What does he love? For my 8 year old, it's GameBoy time. Ever since he got his GameBoy at Christmas, he can play it as soon as he is ready to go to school in the morning (dressed, breakfasted, *socks on*, etc.). Now most mornings he is ready to go before I am. It won't last forever, but when the GameBoy loses it's shine, I'll look for something else. Also these bribes (ahem, *incentives* :-) seem to help by getting them in the habit of complying. Good luck!


I have been struggling to leave house on time with my 2.5 years old ever since she went to day care 4 months ago. Coincidentally, I wrote a memo (to myself and potentially my friends) yesterday detailing ways to cope with this problem. Here is a summary. Other than the obvious thing to do: getting up early yourself,

1. Most importantly, plan ahead! Prepare breakfast to the extent possible. Have lunch boxes and backpacks ready! Prepare anything else that can be prepared the night before. In your case, this can involve taking the shower/bath the night before. And choosing the outfit ahead of time and lay them next to his bed (including underwear, socks, hat, etc.). Ask him to choose them.

2. Teach the child what to expect in a fun way. For example, I wrote a "week song" (Sunday, church, Monday-Friday preshcool,...) and a "routine song." (get up, say good morning, go potty, wash face, ...breakfast...). With singing and fun, the tasks can go a bit smoother. This is geared toward toddlers. For an eight-year-old, I guess you can try to set up clear goals, for example, finish breakfast by 7:30, be out of the door by 7:45. Make them their goals too not only yours.

3. Give them choices: ask them to choose which socks to wear, then they may have more interests to put them on themselves. Encourage them to do it. Same goes for shirt, jacket, etc. Only have two sets of choices available. Otherwise, it becomes a struggle. This trick helps my toddler to be more cooperative (not running away from me when I say time to put on...). A basic principle is to involve them more and try to make routine things more fun! More examples: say or sing hello, good morning to the clothes, cereal; imagine pants/sleeves are tunnels for trains to go through with sound (chacha too-too-). For older kids, you can involve them in baking muffins, devil eggs, (the night or Sunday before) etc.

Do not cut corners on breakfast, a very important meal to start off the day. Hope this helps and happy parenting, a continuous learning process.


The question about getting out of the house in the morning turned up at the same time on both the Advice Line and Parents of Teens newsletters, though one was for an 8-year-old and one for a 12-year-old. (see Teens & the morning crunch for that advice.)

My kids are 14 and 17. The morning rush can be a huge drag and I can remember some really nasty early morning yelling episodes when the older one was 13. Everything ticked him off. What a way to start the day, huh? Mine have always gotten their own breakfast since they were old enough to pour milk, and they've been getting to school on their own - walking or catching the bus - since 2nd grade. But they were both 13 or 14 before they were really waking themselves up, getting out of bed, showering and dressing without any intervention from me. I feel certain other parents must be more successful than I was at this. But that was my experience plain and simple, despite years of trying to get them to do it on their own. The 14-year-old until this school year never heard the alarm go off, or would turn it off and go back to sleep, or would argue with me, in his sleep, about what time it was and how much time he needed to get out of the house. So for some kids it may just be a matter of getting older.

Here are some ideas that worked for me:
- let them pick out their own alarm clock - I recommend one with a radio so they can wake up to their own music. My kids also like big numbers on the display and they like auto shut-off. They listen to the radio while they are getting dressed and then it cuts off after they leave for school.
- make sure the backpack is packed the night before and waiting by the front door.
- new clothes are very motivational
- let them eat what they want for breakfast and get special treats sometimes
- let them develop their own morning routine. One of my kids always makes the same old Kix every morning and then spends 30 minutes reading the sports page every morning. He always leaves on time. The other one rushes downstairs with 5 minutes to spare, often wants non-traditional breakfast food like a leftover hamburger, or sushi, or a milkshake.
- if they are grouchy when they get up (mine are), don't talk to them. They don't seem to mind if you hang out in the kitchen while they are eating though, as long as you don't talk.
- try to spare 15 or 20 minutes of no-stress morning time when you are just hanging out with them - even if you're reading the paper or doing chores at the same time. For me, this has been the time when important topics have come up spontaneously - politics, drugs, sex, fights at school, etc.
- I always give them a good-bye kiss on the cheek as they are leaving (or on the back of the head or in the air when they are rushing by fast). sometimes they try to dodge me but they seem disappointed if I forget and I think it sweetens the morning for all of us.
- Assuming they have an alarm clock, and there is food in the house, at some point you have to leave it to them to get themslves up and out of the house. For me the point was about 14. Let them be late for school if they don't get up in time. When I started leaving the house early a couple mornings a week, they figured out that if they didn't get themselves up, nobody would, and they'd be late. It only took a few days to work.


The approach recommended in preschool, which I only had to use a few times, was just leave when it's leaving time. If child is in p.j.s, they get to school in p.j.s. Seems like this would work well and quickly with an older child, who would be more reluctant to arrive at school half dressed or without lunch bag or backpack. Obviously, in both cases, talk to the kid in a calm, rational, matter of fact tone a day or two before, saying, without apologies or cajoling, that in order to get to work on time, you have to leave the house by x o'clock, and that from now on, it will be his responsibility to be ready by then. Then leave it in his hands (although offer to wake him up at 7:00, if he wishes).
I don't have any real solution, since we routinely leave the house 10 minutes later than we should, but I think it helps a little if you can do some stuff the night before. I try to pack the backpacks (except for the lunches) the night before and leave them by the door. If I am thinking, I put shoes by the door, too, since it can take a good hour to find them sometimes. I'm sure I'm doing my kids irreparable harm by not making them pack their own backpacks, but it's a price I'm willing to pay.
I don't currently deal with this issue, but the first thing that pops to mind is getting more things together and ready the night before. Clothes and backpacks are definitely candidates for this, but breakfast, etc. might also be creatively planned ahead for. Just an idea. Best of luck.
Some suggestions (from another working single mom): pack the backpack the night before and set it by the front door. Pick out clothes (including underwear, shoes, everything) the night before and lay them out on a chair in his room. Make a rule that there will be no morning showers for him on school days. For a while I had success by offering my 9-year-old a quarter every morning that she was ready to leave before me. Her interest in money waxes and wanes, but I would be willing to up it to fifty cents if we were still having frequent problems. I hated those days when one or more of us (I also have a five year old) was furious or in tears when we said good-bye for the day. It is so so so much nicer to leave the house with everyone happy!
Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Feb 8, 2009


BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org

The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network