"Is there anything you can recommend for a 14 year old male (has ADD and ODD) that consistently waits until the last possible moment to get up in the morning and get ready for school? We have tried everything we can think of. He is awake well in advance but refuses to get prepped/eat breakfast/be ready on time. The good news is (at least to this point) is that he does indeed get up and get to school. We understand his motivation is to get a "rise" out of us and see us get frustrated. We would appreciate your thoughts."
Parents unwittingly cause morning madness by not instilling that the routine is a family requirement and not an option. A non-negotiable routine must be established, and consequence discussed and determined (e.g., "If you don't get up on first call, your bedtime is 15 minutes earlier tonight"). It's the "wiggle room" that causes meltdowns and tantrums on the very morning parents have a "must make" meeting.
Here are some ideas to help your child get up on time:
- Avoid all-nighters. Don't allow your child to wait until the night before a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night before a test may mean he performs worse than he would if he had studied less - but got more sleep.
- Avoid stimulants. Don't allow beverages with caffeine after 4 PM.
- Before bedtime, have them unwind by keeping the lights low. Light signals the brain that it's time to wake up. Staying away from bright lights - including computer screens - as well as listening to soothing music, can help the body relax.
- Clothing - down to clean socks, underwear and shoes - should be laid out each night before bed. Youngsters can play a role in choosing the outfit, but no changes are allowed once their head hits the pillow. And, then stick with it! The only exceptions should be an unknown tear or stain, or surprise change in the weather. This avoids missing socks, unmatched shirt and shoes, and keeps getting dressed a simple step in beginning the day vs. a looming battle.
- Create the right sleeping environment. Studies show that teens sleep best in a dark room that is slightly on the cool side. Close the blinds or curtains (and make sure they're heavy enough to block out light), and turn down the thermostat in the bedroom (your child can pile on extra blankets or wear PJs if he's cold).
- Designate an area for all essentials that can eliminate the crazed morning syndrome when you're trying to leave. Shoes, backpacks, car keys, cell phones, purses, etc., should be placed in this area every day - always - so they are always in place and ready for action. Keep a cell phone charger in this area so your phone is charged for the day. Not having to hunt down keys or other last-minute essentials is a time and blood pressure saver, for sure!
- Don’t allow children to stay up late on weekends. Don't go to sleep more than an hour later or wake up more than 2 to 3 hours later than you do during the week.
- Help them relax their mind. Avoid violent, scary, or action movies or television shows right before bed — anything that might set the mind and heart racing. Reading books with involved or active plots may also keep the child from falling or staying asleep.
- If you've got more than one kid in the house, and especially if you have a large family, consider staggering wake-up times for greater efficiency. Start with kids who need assistance first, or the ones who are real sleepyheads who move at a snail's pace come mornings.
- In the morning, wake kids up with bright light. Bright light in the morning signals to your body that it's time to get going.
- It's just not enough to get dressed and eat. How many times have kids missed the bus because they couldn't find their homework or didn't have their backpack put together? If you drive your kids, then put their organized backpacks in the car the night before. Lunches should also be prepared just before bed and easily grabbed from the fridge ready-to-go. Jackets should be in a central location. The "snatch and go" theory really does work in the mornings.
- Kids can learn to awaken by an alarm clock and get themselves up without mom or dad hovering and yelling, "Are you up yet?" Let them decide what is the best time for the alarm to go off and get ready on time. If this means Rhonda doesn't get her hair braided or Michael doesn't get second helpings on cereal, encourage them to set their alarm 15 minutes earlier tomorrow. Cause and effect ...it's a good lesson to learn!
- One mom swears by weekly breakfast menus. Another mom adheres to cereal and fruit. Yet another has her kids eat the $1 breakfast at school each morning. Breakfast is important, and some experts argue that it is the most important meal of the day. So your kids need a nutritious start each a.m. However, that start shouldn't put parents in a work bind or make kids late for school.
- One way to make it easier for kids to get up in the mornings is to create the occasional "kids get up...NOT" day as a reward. If it's a school holiday, lazy weekend opportunity, or just about any reason at all, parents can make a special celebration out of the exception. The "not" day also serves to reinforce the lesson that normal mornings have a schedule and expectation, and that occasionally everyone gets a break from the routine.
- Parents really can help to determine whether their kids become morning risers or morning whiners. If parents moan and groan, are always frantic, grumpy and running late themselves, then how can they really expect anything more of their own kids? Good advice is to get up earlier yourself, start that coffee, or do 10 minutes of exercise, and then show that Positive Mental Attitude and really mean it when you greet your kids with "Good Morning!"
- Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night signals to the body that it's time to sleep. Waking up at the same time every day can also help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick to a sleep schedule.
- Some parents unwittingly set their kids to fail with their morning routines by giving them unexpected chores and duties, which causes whining and a mad rush to end up on time. Consider creating a checklist of what absolutely must be done each morning, and then forget the rest. If you want your child to make his bed every morning, then make that a requirement. However, cleaning the cat box can surely wait until a kid gets home.
If none of the above works – or if you need more tips that do work, don’t hesitate to email me again: Mark Hutten, M.A. - firstname.lastname@example.org
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents