Need Help on Waking Kids up in the Morning

Updated on October 18, 2006
M.W. asks from Auburn, ME
8 answers

My son has to get up at 5:45am and get ready for school. He doesn't like to wake up that early.I have to get him out of bed and carry him into the bathroom to get dressed. Sometimes that doesn't even work.He puts up a very good fight. I tried having him go to bed earlier then he usually does(at 8),but that doesn't work. I then thought having the dog waking him up(by giving him kisses)it worked for a little bit, but not anymore. He also wants me to get him dressed in the mornings(when I have to get him up early). I am trying to get him to do things by himself(he mostly does).

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answers from New York on

I know you said you tried to get him to bed earlier and that it didn't work. I really think that's the answer though. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children your son's age get between 11-13 hours of sleep each night ( Your son is getting less than 10 and I think he's just very, very tired. It might take him a few nights to get into the routine of going to bed earlier, but I think that will be the solution to your problem. Maybe you can try moving his bedtime back 15 minutes each night to get him slowly used to it until he's getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hi M. --
I had a similur problem with my daughter. What I did to solve this problem was to send a set of clothing to school (you have to get the school to help with this one) and if she wouldn't get up and dressed I didn't fight her, I just took her to school in her PJ's and she had to get dressed at school. Let me tell you this worked very well, I only had to do this twice. She was so embarrased that she had to get ready for school at school that she hasn't pulled the not waking up again.

Now before I did this I had her checked by the doctor to make sure there was nothing medically wrong.




answers from Boston on

Hi M.

I know its hard getting them up at that time. what I do is I made a cd. with all kids songs. so before I get my daughter up I play them and start picking out their stuff and once everything is ready I start to wake them up by singing and dancing and that gets them up Happy.. it takes time at first but them once they hear the music they get up right away with a smile.. I hope you'll give this a try... let me know if it works




answers from Bangor on

How about an alarm clock?? I started that with my son when he was 4 1/2ish. And that works great now for us.



answers from Buffalo on

Hi M.,
I have a daughter that just turned 5, and is in kindergarten, she sometimes doesn't want to wake up when she needs to either, especially when she falls asleep later than usual. She somtimes tells me she wants to wake up on her oun, so I got an alarm clock for her, I set out her outfit for the day, she never wants to eat breakfast at home anymore cuz they have it at her school, I also put her to bed most days at 7pm, I put a movie on for her and she usually falls asleep between 7:30 and 8, little kids have a hard time waking abruptly,I speak softly and clearly to get her stirring and slowly take the blanket off, and keep coaxing until she gets up and somtimes she stands on the bed and wants me to carry her, I'll pick her up and set her down right away, then shew her to the bathroom, everything after that is easy, I also have a 2yr old I have to get up for the bus stop, so I have to get the 2 of them ready. the clock, we have not had any use for it yet, I get up with my husband and the way I have been doing things seems to work for me, when she says she wants to get up on her oun again thats when we will do the clock, maybe talk to your son about an alarm clock like mommy has to wake up to like a big boy?



answers from New London on

My brother lived home until he was 23 years old. My mother went into his room everyday of his life and woke him up. She had to go in to call him 10 to 20 times.EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE.
thank god there was only one brother and then thank god I had girls.

But this is the way I see it (being raised by an enabler)
You have to do something drastic or spend the rest of your life doing things the way you set them up now.
I resect the women that do this; they tell thier son this is your alarm clock and you will get yourself up or else!
Then you MUST follow through!
I know ladies that have poured water on a stubborn sleeper, they said remarkably it worked and they only had to do it once.
ps, maybe your kid has a sleeping disorder?



answers from New London on

I have 3 kids and know how hard it is sometimes to get them up. The way that I found works best is to give them a warning before they actually have to get up. For example, if they need to be awake by 6a I will go in at 5:45 and say start thinking about getting up. And then again 5 min later. And then the last time say ok it's time to get up now. It's the same thing as us hitting the snooze button. It lets them know time is coming but at the same time it lets them wake up at their own pace.



answers from Boston on

Rise & Shine!
Strategies for helping little sleepyheads get up and go in the morning
By Jessica Snyder Sachs

My daughter was thrilled to get her first alarm clock the week before she started prekindergarten. And I was thrilled to give it to her. I imagined her bouncing out of bed each morning, hitting the "off" button, and cheerfully slipping on her clothes. But Eva, now 7, her sweet head just inches from the nightstand, has slept through the buzzer ever since.

As so many of us know, how the morning starts can make or break a day for children and parents with things to do and places to be. More times than I can count, my efforts to pry Eva out of bed have earned me the title "Meanest Mommy in the World!"

I know I'm not alone in wishing that my child would actually arise on time and perform her get-ready rituals with a smile on her face. And it's not just my own sanity I'm out to save. "The morning can be special for everybody," says child psychologist Marjorie Hardy, Ph.D., of Allentown, PA. "It's the time when you have the opportunity to strike a positive note for the rest of the day." Here, strategies from experts and parents to help even an A.M.-challenged family do just that.

Contributing editor Jessica Snyder Sachs is a health and science writer based in Georgia.

Be Armed and Ready

In wake-up routines as in war preparation is key. "Eliminate as many chores from your morning as possible," says child psychologist Julian Ang, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Health Science Center. That's especially important with the under-6 set, says Ang, who packs her 2-year-old son's daycare bag at night and leaves it by the door.

"Our rule is no decision-making in the morning," says Elena Gizang-Ginsberg, Ph.D., a biology professor in Yorktown Heights, NY. "That means clothes laid out, special toys selected, homework done and packed up the night before." The morning reward for this exercise in efficiency: more time for cuddles on the couch with 4-year-old Eliza and 8-year-old Keira before Gizang-Ginsberg and her husband, a pediatric dentist, whisk the girls off to before-school care. "The extra time is for us as much as for them," she says.

Make Dreamtime Count

No matter how well-prepared you and your child are for the morning, if he doesn't get enough sleep the night before, you're sunk. "He should be opening his eyes before you go in to wake him," says Richard Ferber, M.D., author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. According to Dr. Ferber, children 6 months through 5 years old need about 11 hours of nighttime sleep. (Younger babies spread their sleep throughout the day.) After 5, a child's nightly sleep needs decrease gradually, about 15 minutes a year, to 8 1/4 hours by age 17. So any hope of initiating pleasant mornings has to begin with getting bedtime right.

Sticking to a bedtime routine can give your child a sense of comfort. Many experts recommend reserving about an hour to wind down; children can lay out the next day's clothing and make sure backpacks contain homework or favorite daycare take-alongs.

This done, some kids still fight going to dreamland. To adjust such a child's sleep time, Dr. Ferber suggests a parent begin by cheerfully allowing him to stay up till he falls asleep on his own. "This way bedtime can become pleasant rather than filled with tension," he explains. Start shifting wake up 15 minutes earlier every week.That way, he'll naturally begin to grow sleepy sooner in the evening, until he's reached your desired bedtime.

Other tips:

Resist allowing kids to catch up on sleep during the day (beyond age-appropriate naps), or they may not be tired enough to sleep come bedtime.

Keep to your schedule on weekends. "Going to bed late and sleeping late even one or two nights a week can be enough to throw off a child's sleep routine," says Dr. Ferber.

Get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour. You'll be better able to deal with whatever happens in the morning.

Ease Kids Awake

With ample sleep, most children will wake up without help. But when they don't and you have to rouse them, be sure you do it gently. "You can't expect kids to respond like troops to reveille," says Cornell University psychologist James Maas, Ph.D., author of Power Sleep.

If a kiss and a whispered "Good morning" work, great. If not, try moving about the room, opening shades, turning on lights, talking softly, or playing music. Some children respond to a cool washcloth across the forehead or being gently repositioned.

If such maneuvers get no response, give your child five to ten minutes more to emerge from sleep before trying again, suggests Ang. Of course, such delay tactics mean you have to build extra time into your morning schedule.

And if all else fails? "Scoop and carry" is the last resort in the Badie household, in Norcross, GA. Dad Rick will give 2-year-old Miles a five-minute warning: "Then, if he's still not out of bed, I just pick him up and start getting him ready. He'll protest for all of two minutes, and then we have a good time."

Some kids who, on their own, tend to pop awake directly out of deep sleep, still require special handling. "They need their space in the morning," says Dr. Ferber. "So make sure you allow ten minutes or so before you ask them to do anything."

As with any groggy child, don't take growling and disrespectful sleep talk personally, says child-discipline expert Bob Lancer, author of Parenting With Love. "If your kid wakes up screaming 'I hate you,' it could be that you resemble the creepy monster that was just in his dream."

Time It Right

After little feet hit the floor, some dawdling is natural. "Children don't understand about rushing because they're not thinking about what's next they're thinking about what they're doing that moment," says Hardy. "You need to slow down your speed, especially with a toddler or preschooler." Once in grade school, kids gradually understand how long it takes to complete tasks.

So how much time is enough for getting a child up and ready? As with bedtime rituals, it depends on the child, and on the family. While it takes a few minutes to change and carry a sleeping baby out the door, a child old enough to feed and dress herself may need an hour. Marjorie Hardy's own schedule with her son, Matthew, 3, stretches over two hours. "He plays. I read. We linger over breakfast," says Hardy.

For toddlers such as Miles Badie, whose active role in the morning routine, besides eating breakfast and brushing his teeth, consists of stepping into pants and raising his arms so a shirt can be slipped over them, "forty-five minutes is just about right," says his dad. "But try paring it to thirty minutes and things get real harried."

Parents can further reduce morning-time stress by shaving the right corners. Even at age 4, Eliza doesn't mind arriving at her daycare provider's house in jammies, says Gizang-Ginsberg. "If she doesn't feel like getting dressed one morning, we just shove her clothes in a bag and go."

Cutting corners can backfire, however, as I found out last summer. I figured we could skim 15 minutes off Eva's morning schedule if she ate breakfast during our 40-minute drive to day camp. On the third morning, she stopped me in my tracks with a mournful, "Mom, ple-e-ease let me eat breakfast at home."

Foster Independence

As most parents know, even a well-rested, unrushed child can dawdle an entire morning away if not kept on schedule. One way to stay on track: Make mornings a balance between intervention and independence. "Helping children get dressed is one way to connect in the morning," says Ang. "I'm all for encouraging independence, but I'm not rigid about having six-year-olds dress themselves." If you do dress your children in the morning, give them opportunities to practice the skill on their own during afternoons and weekends.

It can help everyone's efficiency to keep distractions, such as favorite toys, out of sight and television to a minimum, says Hardy. When TV is needed to occupy an early riser while you dress, say be crystal clear as to when showtime ends and what has to happen then: "As soon as Barney's over, we're going to brush our teeth."

Try the Tag-Team Approach

For some couples, sharing the morning-preparation workload can make mornings purr.

"I'm the wake-up-and-dress person," says Gizang-Ginsberg, "and my husband makes breakfast." When Suzy Brown of San Diego was still nursing 4-month-old Sarah, her husband got 4-year-old Laura ready for preschool.

If both parents work, it's especially valuable if one can leave late on mornings when the unexpected strikes. As a freelance photographer, Badie's wife takes over if Miles isn't ready when Rick has to leave for the office.

Be a Good "Mood Model"

Finally, remember that children mirror our moods. "Your child's behavior depends on your rapport," says Lancer. "Children get hurt when they feel they're being shoved out the door." He urges parents to spend five to ten minutes each morning giving each child some undivided attention.

Taking such advice to heart, I now wriggle under the covers with Eva for a brief cuddle before peeling back the blankets. Afterward, she's surprisingly receptive to getting out of bed. Our conversation is like a Pied Piper's flute, luring her into clothes, through the bathroom, and on to breakfast.

Good Morning Advice
A few years ago, I instituted this policy for my daughters, 6 and 9: Anyone not downstairs by 7:55 for breakfast gets whatever I put on their plate. It saves me a lot of time and stress. Karen Arena Spoleti Old Bridge, NJ Consistency is key. Christopher, 4, and I stick to pretty much the same routine, even on weekends, so hes not off-kilter on Monday mornings. David Monro Houston, TX On vacations, if wed kept Max, 2, and Rachel, 5, up later than usual but wanted to get going, Id wake each of them up with a box of chocolate milk in my hand. It gave them an early-morning treat, and got some milk into their systems at the same time. Marcy Lazar Westfield, NJ I read to my 6-year-old twin daughters during breakfast. It gives them something to look forward to while getting dressed and helps them sit still and eat. Katharine Ellis Vestal, NY It helps us to discuss the entire morning routine the night before. That includes deciding what Madalyn, 4, will have for breakfast, and how shell wear her hair. This eliminates any lengthy decision-making and stalling the next morning. Holly Raver Vonderheit Indianapolis, IN No Nintendo in the morning! Anne Steinberg Brooklyn, NY
Parenting, September 1999

How to Push Bedtime Earlier
Getting your child to hit the sheets with no fuss
By Amy Roberts

1. Just do it. If your child can't tell time, don't drag out the process make the jump in one night, says Kim West, a Maryland clinical social worker and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy. Even if you've been putting your 3-year-old down at 9 p.m., you might be surprised at how fast he learns to conk out at 7:30. "Kids have a 'sleep window' when they're ready for bed, often hours before what you've been using as their 'bedtime,'" West says. This is where reading your child's sleep signals comes into play.
For a clock-watching grade-schooler, you'll have to explain what you're doing and perhaps be more gradual, moving bedtime up a few minutes at a time.

2. Make it routine. Setting up a regular sequence of events that leads inevitably and irreversibly toward lights-out is the key to a (relatively) fuss-free bedtime. Most kids need a combination of bathing, reading, back rubbing, and/or singing before they'll sleep. Not only will a routine like this calm your child, it's a good nudge: You're not telling your child to go to bed, the routine is. But keep it simple you'll be doing it every night.

3. Troubleshoot. After a few weeks, reassess. If your child is falling asleep at the new time but still has trouble waking up or acts tired during the day, experiment with an even earlier bedtime. If that doesn't work, and you've cut out caffeine and evening TV, you may want to check with your doctor to rule out a sleep disorder.

Parenting, June 2005

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