Getting out the door in the morning is perhaps the most challenging transition of the day—especially now, with the addition of snow pants, boots, a winter coat, hat, and mittens!
I have heard the following comments outside my office door from parents more times than I could count:
“We had such a challenging morning.”
“It took us an hour to get out the door this morning.”
“He cried for the entire car ride.”
If you are struggling with your morning routine, my guess is you need to adjust the amount of choice and power you are giving your child in the morning.
What is usually happening is either: your child needs more choice and power during this transition OR your child needs less choice and power during this transition.
My advice is to keep adjusting the dial until you get it just right.
If the situation is the former and your child does not get to choose or exhibit their will over any part of the morning routine, you likely experience crying, temper tantrums, or bodies that simply refuse to move. If this sounds familiar, you may be trying to control too much. Try one of the following ideas to give your child a little more control with the transition:
“Would you like to wear your red mittens or your brown ones today? (Point being, you will wear mittens!)
“Shall I put on your coat for you? Or would you like to do it? (Point being, you will be putting on a coat!)
“We’re leaving for school soon. Would you like to bring me your coat now or in two minutes?” (This is my secret weapon. If you haven’t used this one yet—you’re welcome! I just change your life—that is, until it stops working….)
If the situation is the latter and your child has too much power, you may see a lot of partial dress, rolling around, hiding, or other silly behavior. If this sounds familiar, narrow your child’s choices a bit. Instead of saying, “Please get dressed to go” (knowing they do this well at school, it’s often too vague to try at home), you may try:
“Would you like to wear your red mittens or your brown ones today?
“Shall I put on your coat for you? Or would you like to do it?
“We’re leaving for school soon. Would you like to bring me your coat now or in two minutes?”
I think we all know that children need limits. What we may not know is children need choice too. In Montessori, we call it freedom within limits. If your child has very little choice at home, they will yearn for control over their own destiny. If your child has too much freedom of choice, they will yearn for parameters. Every scenario, every child, and every age needs a slightly different adjustment on the dial and by correcting either too much choice or too little, your mornings will be a whole lot smoother.
One final tip:
Shift the way you think about the morning routine: instead of thinking it’s a necessary evil, think of it as an opportunity to connect with your child. Our teachers do this every day with all routines—whether changing diapers, zipping coats, or working with the sandpaper letters—we see each moment as an opportunity to connect.
The morning routine is potential quality time you get to spend with your child. Sit on the floor with them and scaffold the experience of getting outdoor gear on. They will feel cared for, there will be good role-modeling of staying calm during transition, and you will get a opportunity to connect with one another.
I hope you find this helpful. Moreover, I hope it helps you move you in the direction of actually enjoying the time you have with your child every morning (rather than just on the weekend mornings).
Erin R. Trondson, M.S.