28 answers

Getting My Daughter Out the Door in the Morning

Hello Mamas! I really could use your help on this one. My 4 year old daughter is generally very well behaved, but some mornings she just won't get ready for preschool. She loves school and I am sure this is not the cause of her procrastination. I have to stay on top of her every single minute to get her dressed, brush her teeth, etc. The minute my eyes are off her, she's playing or daydreaming. Even when I am constantly prompting her, she gets annoyed and becomes more uncooperative. I have changed hours at my job twice to try to accomodate her slow-to-go issues. I simply don't have anymore flexibility in that area. My tardiness will soon be a problem. I have tried helping her in the mornings, giving her tons of praise and support. I have tried taking away tv & video games in the evenings (they are banned in the mornings). I have tried rewarding her for days we get out the door on time. Nothing seems to work. I end up feeling drawn into a power struggle and being bullied. Unfortunately, she simply can't dictate when our days begin and when we get to work & school. In the end I end up screaming & yelling like a mad woman. There have been days where I felt like I was going to snap (only a handful of these). I hate yelling at her - it really gets to me and I know its not the most constructive way of resolving the situation. This is not the way I want to interact with my daughter or the behavior I want to model. How do you mamas get your uncooperative kids out the door in the morning? What methods do you employ? I am desparate for some constructive/positive suggestions.

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So What Happened?™

Thanks to all you mamas for the great response. Knowing I'm not alone is a big help. I talked with my daughter about communications and cooperation. Without these two things, there is not a plan that will succeed. She promises to ask for help or tell me how she's feeling right away (not after we're a half hour late and already screaming). I promise to be available to help her (whether its to pick out yet another outfit or find a lost stuffed animal that suddenly needs to be found). We can get out the door (& have) at a reasonable time when we work together. I do appreciate all the time-saving tips, though, as I am always looking for ways to make the mornings easier.

Featured Answers

At night before bed have her help you pick out her clothes for the morning then have her give you her opinion on what you should wear for work the next day.

I had the same problem with my daughter when she was that age. I used to give her a bath and let her sleep in her clothes she was going to wear to school the next day. It was sooooo much easier than the power struggles we would have. That way, I could concentrate on other things she needed to do like have breakfast and brush her teeth and hair.

It worked for us! Hope this helps!

Have you tried putting a timer on ?
My daughter is 3 and I was having problems with her getting out the door also! So I put the timer on the oven on for 10 minutes and when it gets to the 1 minute left it makes a beep - when that beep goes off, She has to try and beat the clock to the last seconds before it goes off!!!! It's fun ! Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't - but it's worth a shot and it aids in reducing the stress for everyone!

Good luck Mama

More Answers

Let her go to school in her pj's and teeth unbrushed if she chooses to. I bet she will change her mind about it. Let it be her choice. Is there really any reason to have the power struggle? If she experiences naturally occurring results of her choices she is most likely going to show you just how amazingly smart and motivated she can be.

1 mom found this helpful

I now have the same problem. My son was a lot quicker and easier when he was younger. Now that he's older he's slower. I have learned that not everyone is a morning bird like me, that jumps out of bed ready to go. I have also learned that you need to observe and understand what is going on and why the child is slow. I found out that my son likes to have an advanced "warning" that it's time to wake up, then a 10 min. "snooze alarm." I line up his clothing when I do the advanced wake-up call. Then I go back up 10-15 min. later to make sure he's getting dressed. (Usually he is.) If not, I act like I'm in a hurry and let him know his "smooze alarm" already went off. (He will jump out of bed then.) I make sure he has at least 30 min. to eat breakfast, because he's a slow eater. Then I have him brush his teeth after breakfast the same time I do. All homework and books are already packed and ready the night before.

Everyone in my house, including hubby knows that morning is rush hour so you better be quick or Mommy turns into a drill sargent. ("Get moving soldier, one, two...) It can be fun being a drill sargent. Daddy is not allowed to yell at sonny boy in the morning, because it becomes a personal attack rather than pushing to get him going. (There's a difference: "Why are you so slow!" vs. "Let's get the ball rolling." and you get 2 different responses from the child...The first one gets crying and more slowness...The second one gets him moving.)I also let them know if they are a few minutes late getting in the car and will probably do better tomorrow or just right.

As a parent I feel I have to be responible too. I know that if I don't get up early enough, I will not have everything in place to get the show on the road. Somtimes you need to make a sacifice of getting up early than you'd like. I'm up at 5:30AM. I'm dressed by 5:55AM-6:00AM. (That includes face washed, hair combed, and make-up.) Then I get the lunches packed, let out the dog, let the dog back in, cat litter duty, and prepare the garbage. At 6:30AM I become the rooster and run upstairs to give the first wake up warning to my son and hubby. Then I make the breakfasts. If I dont' hear any feet by 6:50AM, I check on my son. Then we all sit down to eat. At 7:15AM my son and I brush our teeth. (Good thing we have 2 bathrooms.) Hubby's a very slow eater. After we're done, I go warm up the car while hubby brushes his teeth. My son comes out to the car before my hubby, so I can then do the reminder stuff like...."Don't forget your science tonight, you have a test tomorrow...." Everybody's in the car by 7:40AM-7:45AM and off we go to school and work...on time.

You don't say what her bedtime is at night. I found with my son that an earlier bedtime made the morning routine go more smoothly. Don't change it by more than 15 minutes at a time or she'll notice and fight it. Eventually she'll be rested enough to be more 'with the program' in the morning and you'll know you've found the correct bedtime for her needs. Both my 10-yo son and 3-yo daughter are in bed by 8:30 every night (she takes a nap so she gets the total number of hours she needs). When he was 5-7 years old his bedtime was 7:30, not easy in the summer months, but necessary.

Also, I've used TV in the morning as a reward for getting ready in a timely manner. "If everything is done quickly you can watch ____ until it's time to leave at 7:30."

Hi A.,
Glad to know it's not just our house! Know that you're not alone in this struggle.

A few things we've done is put her pants/shorts and shirts in low drawers and let her pick. Yes, she has gone to school in lime green sweat pants, stepped shirt with princess socks and purple shoes but she was willing to get dressed.

Another thing I did was make a "Get Ready" Chart for our fridge. I took Popsicle sticks painted them purple (her favorite) and wrote "I Did It!" and the days of the week on the other sticks (each with their own color) and glued magnets on the back. On the chart I put "Kara's Get Ready Chart - Today is" at the top and then below stickers with clothing (shirts, pants, socks/shoes and even a dress). We go through it each morning, what day is it and did she put on that article of clothing. Her "prize" is what she calls a gummie which is her vitamin. This way she feels like she accomplished something, she's learning the days of the week, and she's taking her vitamins. I win all around! Does it always work? No but most days it does.

Hang in there. Just think, she's an independent little girl that's going to grow up into a strong woman who's not going to take anything from anyone. :-)


I feel your pain A.. I have two daughters 7 and 5. And Mornings are a nightmare. It sounded like you were describing me! The only thing I can suggest is have a plan in place. Let your daughter know as soon as you wake up you brush your teeth, then get dressed etc. Good luck and let me know how it goes!!!

I had the same problem with my daughter when she was that age. I used to give her a bath and let her sleep in her clothes she was going to wear to school the next day. It was sooooo much easier than the power struggles we would have. That way, I could concentrate on other things she needed to do like have breakfast and brush her teeth and hair.

It worked for us! Hope this helps!

Hi A.:

I know this isn't a wonderful solution, but my daughter's preschool teacher had me bring her to preschool in her pajamas on those morning. And since all she had to do was brush her teeth & hair and hygiene issues, she was much more cooperative. It made out mornings much more pleasant.

Now that she's in 1st grade, I often have her brush her hair & eat her breakfast in the car. Again, not the ideal, but it makes our mornings move smoother.

Good luck.

I agree with the past poster let her see the consequences to her actions. Take her in her pj's I guarantee you she will be on time tomorrow. I own a preschool and I see the way parent's cater to their kids behavior everyday. Why is it we let our kids parent us. Why do we have to give a reward for getting dressed? Rewards should be for doing something wonderful and kind? For getting a good report at school not because they obeyed us. I know we all want to be the best parents we can and try not to yell and try not to get angry but guess what it happens. Punishment should not be kind it needs to really hit home and be effective. I say don't yell and scream just warn her if she does not get dressed she will go to school in her pj's and then do it. She will be furious but she will get the message. If you give a warning and follow through with any type of discipline you usually only have to do it once. Kids catch on quickly that mom means business. This is the part of parenting that SUCKS and really tests your strengths. Children can wear us down and they know that. Do not try to accommodate your daughter because life is not accommodating and trust me her teachers down the line will not wait until she is ready to listen to them. They will not follow her around and make sure she accomplishes her tasks. Handling this now will teach her she needs to listen when she is told to do something and it will help and teach her to have respect for her teachers, and all adults. The last thing you want is for this behavior to carry on. If you can't get her to listen at 4 she will never listen at 14. Sorry to be so strong but I work with children all day and I see children controlling their parents everyday and they just look at me like they have been defeated. Consistency and Consequence that is the only method and advice I give to all of my parents. Good luck!!!

My son did the same thing...I thought I would lose my voice from yelling so much. Thankfully, they do grow out of it. We also used the timer and most of the time it worked but it did wear off after awhile. We also packed lunches, put clothes out, etc the night before which made a huge difference. I also put him to bed earlier at night so that he was well rested. Try to get as much done for yourself the night before and before she is up and then you will have more time to keep her on schedule in the morning. It is very frustrating but just keep telling yourself it won't be for long. My son now gets up and makes his own breakfast, gets himself dressed and brushes his teeth before I'm even out of bed (since he was 7 or 8 yrs old).

I would prepare anything I can the night before that is needed for the morning to make the mornings easier...clothes, lunches, etc......I would get up a 1/2 hr. earlier, make my bed and get myself showered and dressed first...then I would wake her up, wash her, dress her, and get her ready for her day....right down to sitting down for breakfast together and getting out the door....giving her no time to day dream or play...
I tend to think she is to young to understand that you need to get to work on time....

Try getting up 1/2 hour to an hour earlier and do as much as you can the night before. Give her a bath , pick out her clothes, pack her lunch and school bag at night. Even decide what she is going to have for breakfast. This will require an earlier bedtime, but it will be worth it in the long run.

I had the same issue and I made it a race! I would say "I BET I can get ready faster than you...wanna race? On your mark, get ready, GO!" And I would then go in and get dressed. She loved winning the race. Let me know if this works for you.

Here's what I found from dealing with a pokey child: Giving them more time will not get them out the door on time.

If you give them 30 minutes to get ready they take 31. Give them 40 and they need 45. And you get upset because you think "OMG I gave you 15 more minutes to get ready and I'm still pushing you out the door while yelling like a nut case." Been there, done that for many years with 4 kids.

My trick was to get everything done the night before. Backpacks packed and at the door with shoes, jackets, hats, gloves, etc on top of each backpack. Bowls on the table with cereal boxes in the middle. Their clothes picked out the night before right down to the socks and underwear.

My hubby and I would get up and get ready ourselves and then wake up the kids 25 minutes before the bus. From that point on we supervised everything and without a minute to spare the kids were out the door with everything done. Yes morning were hectic but everyone was on time and on task because hubby and I were 100 percent focused on the same goal.

I can totally relate! I have started to get my gets fully dressed as soon as we wake up and that seems to help us get out the door.

At night before bed have her help you pick out her clothes for the morning then have her give you her opinion on what you should wear for work the next day.

Hi A.,

My son, also four, is exactly the same way! He will literally stand in front of the potty, after peeing, with his pants around his ankles...doing NOTHING. It can take as long as five minutes to get him to pull them up, flush, put the lid down, etc. Drives me nuts.

Our biggest sticking point used to be getting him to come into the bathroom to get his teeth brushed after breakfast. Between his not listening and the time-outs that earned him, sometimes we'd waste 20 minutes at this one task!

What worked for us: he got one chance to come when called and "present his teeth" for brushing. If he failed to come, I went and got him, no yelling, no yanking...picked him up and carried him to the bathroom. I acted calmly, no matter what...just very matter-of-fact, "It's time to brush your teeth now." Then I would brush them, holding his head still if I needed to.

It took less than a week for J. to figure out that this is what had to happen, every day. From that day in, tooth brushing is actually the speediest part of our morning routine!

He's still ridiculously pokey at the toilet, though. Not sure what that's about. *laughing*


Hi A.,
i had the same issues and this is what i did.
i put the clocks 10 minutes fast, i have a clock that coo coo's so thats now our warning its time to go.
Than we planned the night before what we were going to wear (so that was one less thing to do)
help her, she'll eventually wanna do it herself.
hang in there,

If she is not having problems at school, keep in mind she is four and she will get tired. Assist her in the morning she will gradually grow out of it. At that age children love to play and routine gets to be a bother to them .try morning contests of speed .If your give her a task give her time to move .Some children, like adults, do not like to be rushed, get her up a little earlier.I've raised daughters. Very bright little girls push your buttons if you respond the same way each time she will continue. Think of the things that you cannot tolerate as an adult and how you truly like to be handled and work with her that way because right now she is training you.If you don't rush her she will move along more swiftly.

Yeah... I pretty much have to shuffle along an 8-yr-old and two preK boys every single morning. This is just typical of young children. The older one is more efficient, of course, but she still needs a little poking once or twice before the bus comes. AND, girls are tougher than boys. My boys won't fight me if I just grab their clothes... my daughter has to pick out her own, and she has been like this since she was two! :) We try to watch the weather and pick out 3 outfits on Sunday night, and then 2 outfits on Wednesday night so she can get dressed and deal with bathroom business on her own. Then I meet her in the kitchen for breakfast. The little ones (5 and 3) need much more of me to do it all.

This won't last forever (really!). Diane gave great advice. The focus has to be totally on her--either before or after you take care of your personal morning stuff. I slip in my shower only once my daughter is on the bus and the boys have eaten, brushed teeth, dressed, and used the toilet. I can leave one of those things for last after my shower, but no more than that. It works pretty well--then they have time to play before I drive them school instead of the complete panic down to the minute we leave.

Settle in for the long haul and good luck! :)

I certainly don't know the answer, but with some of these power struggles that I have had with my daughter, I have given her two choices - you can do it or I can do it - and it has usually gotten us through the difficult time (thought it has still taken a little while). For some things, I have ended up doing it instead of her, but it is really quick because I can control the process. Other things she has developed a sense of independence around.

Hope that helps!

She is just being a kid and you shouldnt think of it as a power struggle. Instead of getting upset, just do it all for her. Tell her ahead of time if you dont brush your teeth I will do it. Make sure her clothes are laid out for her, but she will need to be told what to do each step. Make sure there is no tv on and toys are absolutely off limits. It would help if you didnt have to do anything while she is getting ready, so plan your stuff to be done before she wakes.

I have a 6 1/2 yr old boy who has trouble in the mornings too. What I found that works for me best, is 100% routine. The same routine over & over. He took a little while to adapt to it, but it works. I played around with what time we got up in the morning. My son needs a little bit of time...he's not quick moving in the morning. So we start at 6:45am. It takes about 10 minutes to get him out of bed! Then we go potty, get dressed, eat breakfast and while he does breakfast I pack his lunch, etc. He needs to be out of house by 7:55am so it's about an hour long routine but without feeling "rushed" he works more cooperatively. That's not to say I don't have my bad mornings too...but I hate (just as you said you do too) having to lose my patience or yell before he goes to school and I begin my workday. Not a nice way to start the day. I have tried same things - positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, etc. Depends what works on what day to be honest. The other thing I find is the calmer I stay (no yelling, no rushing) the more quickly he overcomes the resistance to his morning (if he's fighting me on an issue, say brushing his teeth for ex.) I hope that helps. Since they don't come with manuals, but do come with all sorts of different personalities, I'm so glad I found this site to chat with other moms about all these things! Best of luck!

What should help is you may have to do everything for her. Which will mean you get up earlier to get yourself ready for work. You get her up you yourself brush her teeth and put on her clothes do her hair ect.(do not let her do it this she should see as you treating her like a baby. At that age they are trying to be big girls and hopefully she will not like it and will change her behaviour. Hth

Have you tried putting a timer on ?
My daughter is 3 and I was having problems with her getting out the door also! So I put the timer on the oven on for 10 minutes and when it gets to the 1 minute left it makes a beep - when that beep goes off, She has to try and beat the clock to the last seconds before it goes off!!!! It's fun ! Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't - but it's worth a shot and it aids in reducing the stress for everyone!

Good luck Mama

I am repeating what was already said, but it works! My 2 daughters went through this and at 8 and 6 I still have to watch over them. I get up and ready first so I can play "guard" and brush their hair/teeth. Their outfits are picked out the night before. Their shoes are by the door. Their backpacks are filled the night before and also by the door. Gloves/hat and whatever else are all ready to go to. Snacks and drinks and lunch money are ready to go on the counter while they eat breakfast. I do pack lunch in the morning b/c they said sandwiches get soggy. The tv is off while they eat or they dawdle and dont eat!! I dont know if that helps you but it works!!

My 6 year old loves to feel in control, and has since he was 3. When he was four and started pre-K, mornings became a real issue for us, too. One of the solutions we came up with is having a checklist. We started with pictures of him doing the task, with big boxes for a check mark, on a paper in a plastic sheet so he could check off what he completed with a dry erase marker. We progressed to a written checklist when he could read all the items. I still need to ask him what he is doing, where he is on his checklist, but he loves to see all those boxes checked off! He used to get a sticker on his calendar for every morning when he did his checklist without any dilly dally, and a pre-determined number of stickers earned him a pre-determined Desired Thing. Now, the completed checklist is reward enough for him. And we add responsibilities as we go along.

Hi...your daughter is only 4 yrs old, my daughter is 11 yrs and I go thru the same thing as you do every morning; except I can't change my hours at work. I could use some advice as well on what to do, there are times where I feel like I am a lousy mother as I am ALWAYS yelling at her. I feel your pain. I, too, have taken away the tv away in the morning, but she still takes about a half hour to get ready for school.


Give her pictures of her instructions. Take a picture of her finished with each step: Washing, eating, brushing teeth, dressing, shoes+socks, coat, backpack - in whatever order they need to be in (putting backpack together first might be an idea - the night before!Laying out clothes the night before!)

She isn't dictating. Likely she isn't remembering. Look back: are the days she is wanting to stay at home connected with something? Needing to be cuddled a little more? A later night or busier day before?

Then put the pix on the wall where she usually sees them - next to her dresser (or on a drawer).

There is a website that might help with the backpack, too - buddiepacks.com I think it is.

Let me know how it works out,
Good Luck, and have patience - she's still learning!

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