Mornings can be a challenging time for both parents and children, especially when children are oppositional or resistant to following their morning routine. Whether it's getting dressed, eating breakfast, or brushing teeth, establishing a predictable routine can help your child start the day on a positive note. Here are some tips to help you assist your child with their morning routine:
Establish a predictable routine: Children thrive on routine and predictability. Create a morning routine that your child can rely on and anticipate. For example, you could establish a consistent order for tasks like getting dressed, eating breakfast, and brushing teeth. Make a visual chart with pictures or symbols to help your child understand the routine.
Involve your child in the routine: Give your child choices and involve them in decision-making about their morning routine, such as what they want to wear or what they want to eat for breakfast. This will help them feel more in control and may reduce oppositional behavior. Pro-tip: Limit their choices to 2-3 items so they don't become overwhelmed)
Use positive reinforcement: Our kids often receive a lot of attention and interaction when they're oppositional but we forget to praise them when they're seamlessly moving through the morning routine! Remember to provide just as much attention for getting dressed quickly or following the routine without resistance. This will encourage your child to continue positive behavior. You can also use natural reinforcers here! If your child finishes the morning routine quickly, they probably have some extra time left to listen to their favorite song, color a quick picture, or play a game before heading off to school.
Set expectations: Be clear about your expectations for your child's behavior in the morning, such as following the routine and waiting until after breakfast to play with toys. Explain the consequences of not following expectations, such as losing privileges or a delayed activity.
Be patient and stay calm: Children may pick up on your frustration or stress, which can escalate the situation. Try to stay calm and positive, even if your child is resistant. Use a calm tone of voice and positive body language. Sometimes, repeating a mantra in your own head ("They're not giving me a hard time, they're having a hard time") can help with this as well.
Consider making the routine more fun: Make the morning routine more enjoyable by adding music, a dance party, or a game. This may make the routine more engaging and help your child start the day on a positive note. Some kids enjoy playing "Beat the Clock" where they try to complete specific steps of the morning routine before the time goes off.
Remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. Be patient and persistent in finding a routine that works for your child. If your child's oppositional behavior persists or becomes more severe, consider consulting with a child development specialist or a behavior analyst for additional support.