At the beginning of school last year, I had a hard time getting my daughter out the door by 8:10. This year, we’ve got to be out by 7:30. Luckily, we developed a few strategies that have been serving us well even with 40 fewer minutes.
Put the kids to bed earlier at night. I know, this sounds like one of those cop-out lines, but really, one of the best things you can do is make sure the time your child needs to get up and the time he’d naturally get up are as close to the same as possible. School age kids generally need 10-11 hours of shut-eye per night, so determine what time he needs to wake up and work backwards to figure out his ideal bedtime.
Make “lights out” time mean sleep time. You can’t force anyone to fall asleep, but you can minimize distractions so that sleep is more likely. Although lights out for my daughter is 8:30, she needs to be ready for bed—in pajamas, teeth brushed, gone to the bathroom, etc.—by 8:00 or so. Then she gets to read on her Nook in whatever time she has left. At 8:30, I take the Nook out of the room, kiss her good night, shoo the cat out (my daughter’s been known to play with her furry friend for almost an hour after lights out if I don’t!), close the door, and that’s that. Figure out what the distractions are for your kid and remove them. If your child likes to pop out of bed 20 times after lights out, try the “I’ll be right back” method.
Be her snooze button. If, despite your best efforts, your child is still groggy in the morning, wake her up five minutes before you need to. Ask her, “Do you want to get up now or in five minutes?” (I like to ask questions that make her answer, since each time she has to talk wakes her up a little more.) She’ll likely say the latter, at which point, tell her, “That’s fine, but then there can’t be any arguments in five minutes. Ok?” (Again, make sure she answers.) If she agrees, set a timer in her room. When it goes off, tell her it’s time to get up. If she argues, don’t give her the five-minute luxury the next day, and tell her why. Try it again a few days later to see if she’s learned her lesson.
Freeze lunches beforehand. I learned this trick from a teacher friend who has five school lunches to make. Every Sunday, she makes sandwiches for the week and freezes them each in tin foil so that in the morning, she just has to pop them into lunchboxes that each child prepares the night before with drink, snack, and fruit. Peanut butter and jelly freeze particularly well, and so do cold cuts, though if you want to add fix-ins (lettuce, tomato, etc.), you’ll have to do that in the a.m.
Lay out outfits the night before. By having your child actually lay out the clothes she wants to wear—rather than just say, “I’ll wear my jeggings and princess top”—you ensure that each piece is clean (not at the bottom of the hamper!) and ready to go. Also be sure homework and whatever else your child needs for school is in her backpack the night before so that there’s no last-minute cries of “I can’t find my spelling worksheet!” right before you’re about to leave.
Let him be late once. Let him see what happens if you don’t force him to get out of bed on time and nag him every step of the way. He’ll have to do the walk of shame into the office, with all eyes on him as he slinks into class late. Talk to him about how that felt, the consequences of habitual lateness, and how he can stick to a schedule that’ll get him to school on time. Work backwards from the time of departure. For example, if you need to be out the door by 8:00, ask him how long it takes to brush his teeth; if he says five minutes, set a schedule that he must be in the bathroom brushing his teeth by 7:55. If you see he’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing at an appointed time, gently remind him, “It’s 7:55 now.” Stand there, and he’ll get the picture.
Greet the day with a smile. Let’s face it: The kids aren’t the only ones having a hard time getting up in the morning. But studies show that the actual act of smiling makes you and everyone around you happier. So no matter how sleep-deprived you feel, slap on a grin and get ready for another glorious day!
More by NJ Family's Real Moms of NJ Blogger, Renée Sagiv Riebling: