Motivating Kids in the Morning

Updated on March 03, 2010
D.R. asks from Thornton, PA
17 answers

I desperately need help for ideas on how to motivate my 6 and 4 year olds in the morning. Every morning is a struggle. I wrote out a list of what needs to be done with pictures; getting dressed, brushing teeth etc. That worked for a while and now they do understand what needs to be completed but they have no sense of urgency. I printed out a photo of the clock and the time we need to leave the house and that didn’t help. I’m concerned since, once school starts, we need to leave earlier then we do now. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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answers from Sharon on

Oh they'll get motivated all right. ;) Especially when the teacher starts giving them dirty looks and stern talkings-to for the unacceptable offense of being tardy. Yep, I bet we all remember school... such a LOVELY place, wasn't it. :P



answers from Harrisburg on

My kids are 10 & 12. We've used the earlier bedtime thing and it absolutely works (most of the time). We tell them if they're too tired to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, they must need to go to bed earlier. We don't make a big fuss...and we've told them it's NOT punishment...just a way to help them fulfill their responsibilities. No screaming...just calmly tell them if they've not done whatever it is that needs to be done, bedtime will be earlier. We start with 15 minutes and move to 30 if the 15 doesn't work. My oldest has ADHD, and focusing in the morning is very difficult for him until his meds kick in, but that's still no excuse for him not to comply. We've told him everyone has difficulties they must deal with. For those who think that's too harsh...a boss isn't going to cut him slack for the ADHD...he'll get fired if he can't show up for work on he needs to learn to manage it now...and develop coping habits while he's young.

I've also set timers. When my kids were smaller, I game them each their own timer (though my ADHD child could never seem to find his when it was time to use it). Now that they're older, they also have timers on their watches. The timers work to some extent...but the earlier bedtimes seems to work better for us.

Good luck.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Do as much as possible the night before.

When my kids are slow in the morning, I wake them up 15 minutes earlier the next morning, and if that isn't early enough, I wake them up even earlier the next day. They don't like getting up earlier, so they eventually figure out how to get things done faster, so they can sleep longer.

Some kids need closer supervision at first and step by step instructions at the time they are doing it to get it done.

A lot of grown up people aren't motivated in the morning to get things done on time. Some folks are like that their whole lives. Your kids are young yet, and need more practice at it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I'll be looking at the responses you get b/c my son is starting first grad at the end of the month and he is S-L-O-W in the morning....drives me nuts!


answers from Philadelphia on

Getting up earlier is an idea. Dont even make any deal about it. Do not pose it as a punishment. Also get everything out and ready the night before. Clothes, school bags, lunch, jacket ect... then there will be an excess of time for them to get things done. Maybe give incentive. If they can get done early enough they can pick breakfast as opposed to a granola bar while running out the door. Or if there is time they can color or watch a childrens show or play for a bit.

I would love to hear how it all turned out

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answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter is a little older (7), but she had the same issue.

What I did was:

Get her a digital clock(easier to read by little ones) for her bedroom. She has to be dressed and down stairs by 'X' time, or she gets after school privilages revoked, toys taken away, etc.

Set a timer for each thing that needs done. I.E. - 3 min to bruch teeth, 10 min to eat breakfast, etc . . .

We still have days that I have to getafter her to get moving, but most mornings are ok.



answers from Sharon on

I have found, especially for boys, that they need to have you supervise them step by step. They cannot be independent and focus unless it is rooted in their personalities to be such.

My oldest has struggled with this immensely and it has been a the root of so many battles.

Now that he is 9 if I am somewhere in the vicinity of where hes supposed to be then he'll do it. If I'm in a different area of the house he'll just play.

Make sure your up and ready before the kids if that makes it easier and then walk through their stuff with them and ask them whats next. Eventually they'll gain independence little by little and you can praise them accordingly and step back.


answers from Allentown on

Hi D.,

The Restorative Practices way:

Sit down with the children. Have a poster board.

Ask them what they need to get your schedule accomplished.

Have them come up with ideas of how to get moving in the morning or whatever you need for them to do.

Have them write down the schedule.

Ask them what consequences if these rules are not followed.

Have them write down the consequences.

Encourage the rules.

Good luck. D.



answers from Allentown on

the week before school change to school time.

You can also put all the clocks 10 min ahead to give yourself that cushion, I did it for years with my kids and worked out great.



answers from Orlando on

I hate toing say it but using rewards or taking away a favorite toy seems to be the answer. We have the same problem in my house. It seems they think you may give in and say forget it nobody is going anywhere (of course this is what they want).... However frustrated we get, them knowing they can't have their show or DS after school because of the hard time you get in the morning, kind of changes the attitude. Taking away extra's works with my little one and until the behavior changes she won't get it back. Being able to run smoothly in the morning WAS a challenge but now if a hard time arises she will be left without the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so the alternitive is to move it or lose it!!!!! No harsh words are needed and screaming just doesn't work. Everyone will be happy with this method and it teaches her that she is not running this program mom and dad are.



answers from Reading on

Hi D., It's been my experience that if you make anything a game or race it gets done quicker or the way you want it - at least until the novelty wears off. I would start using a timer and see if they can beat YOU at getting ready. Or if they still need a lot of help which one can get ready the quickest. Or if competition is not your dig you could challenge them to get ready in so many odd minutes and offer some kind of incentive like a special goody at breakfast or special snack in the afternoon or something. They could earn "bonus points" by helping eachother and "lose" points by being bossy or mean to eachother. You could keep points and leave the incentive for once they reach 10 points or something. I don't know but if you mask it by trying to make it fun and setting an incentive that they really want to work towards (always the hardest part) it may all fall into place.



answers from York on

i havent been through this myself yet. but i know my mom always threatened us with an earlier bed time if we couldnt get ourselves dressed and ready in time for school. not sure if that would work for kids this age or not. but im sure they love being able to stay up till a certain time. no kid seems to want to go to bed early. so if they are too "tired and sluggish" or just plain unmotivated to get dressed by x time they are told... their consequence could be 10 minutes earlier each night till they get it right? let us know what works for you!



answers from Pittsburgh on

My girls are 4yrs old and are the same way. So I had to find something that they loved. They have a love for music. So in the morning we pick out a cd and play it. They have to complete small task per song. This gets them moving and really puts them in a good mood to start their day. Especially their kids praise music from church. Sometimes they get a little distracted performing in their room. Another good cd is the imagination movers from disney.


answers from Williamsport on

Once you have simplified and organized everything so they are able to get ready on time, explained things nicely a few times (or a hundred times) and gone through the same routine every day, there is only so much "patience" you should have when you know they understand what they are doing.

They have to be on time. This is a "rule" and it's not going to change, so stay calm and enforce it with consequences after warnings. They won't motivate themselves, because they're kids, and because they know you get them to their destination no matter what, and there is no effective penalty for lagging.

You can't give them an innate sense of urgency, but you can enforce some discipline if they intentionally lag when you have asked them to do something. (OK, I'll count to three for you to finish ____". Use a consequence if they don't respond. Don't ask 10 times and get mad. One calm request, one warning, and then a consequence. Be consistent until they respond with just your request.

They will get it if they have to. Most kids do not hurry on their own! My daughter is 3 1/2, she's doing the natural "dawdling" thing but when we have to hurry, if she hears me start counting, she runs to get her shoes, help her brother, get to the car, whatever, because she knows a consequence would come with the number 3. I don't get past "1" before she's hurrying, and I never need to raise my voice or get mad.

Take it one task at a time, and teach each task separately as needing to be done as soon as you say it. They'll learn to do give up the fight and do it on their own with just your verbal request if you're consistent.

Don't forget big hugs and praises when they do hurry for each little thing. Good luck!



answers from Williamsport on

One thing that worked with my 7 and 5 year old girls is to make getting ready in the morning a race--they still had to allow 2 mins for brushing teeth, but dressing including shoes and socks, brushing hair, making beds, etc. was part of the race. Then we would keep track of "best times". Not only did they get ready without dwadling, they really began to appreciate the fact that they actually had free time before school during which they were able to color, play with toys and if enough time, watch some of a tv show. These were their "rewards" for being disciplined getting ready for school.



answers from Allentown on

We have this same problem. The first thing we do is make sure we have ourselves together so we're not racing around, too. I also factor in a buffer period for my own sanity. Then, our biggest motivator is taking away things the kids are looking forward to, a favorite toy, etc. (what we take away depends on the severity of the offense). We don't get into an argument or discussion with them. Also, when it's time to go it's time to go ... meaning if you tell them that everyone needs to be in the car at 8:00, if it's 8:00 put them in the car no matter their state of dress (obviously be prepared to complete the task at your destination). I hope these ideas help. Good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

I had the same problem with my son last year during Kindergarten....until I bought him his own clock. I told him - when the big hand is on the need to be downstairs eating breakfast. When the big hand is on the 4 - we go to the bus stop. Worked PERFECTLY. He was never late again!!

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