Getting ready for school disaster! Help sought... - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 12 Old 02-27-2013, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
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I have a 5yo in kindergarten, an almost 3yo and a 7mth old. Getting ready and out to school in the morning is a completed nightmare. My 5yo seems to be completely unable to even eat his breakfast without constant reminders, never mind get himself dressed, go to the bathroom, etc. Dh is already at work when we get up so I'm in my own in the mornings and pretty much spend my time chasing my tail and being far far too grumpy with my kids - which cant be good for the small folk and makes me feel guilty and pretty awful for the rest of the day. Oh and my almost 3yo is fairly high energy and spirited to say the least so he can be a bit of a handful at times.

We have stuck to the same routine since he started in September, I am not asking him to do much, just eat breakfast, go to the bathroom, get dressed, put his lunch in his school bag and, when the time comes, put on his coat and shoes so we can leave for school.

I have absolutely no idea what to do to make our morning routine smoother. And to get us to school on time without all the stress. We get up with 1 3/4 hours to spare before we leave for school. I put out clothes for all of us and make his lunch the night before.

I really need for something to change as I feel that I'm really failing my kids and on those mornings when my baby has been up lots the night before I find it really hard to keep it together. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I really hate the mornings and resent how they make me feel.

I am a sahm and love being with my kids but, oh my this is challenging!

Any suggestions at all would be welcome! Is anyone else struggling with this?
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#2 of 12 Old 02-27-2013, 04:50 PM
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Sounds like my daughter when she was little...


Is he tired in the mornings?  Dragging his feet?  My daughter required a long time to wake up... No amount of nagging, threatening, reminding, etc would work when she was still waking.  She would move so slowly it would kill me to watch.. We finally had to up her bedtime to 7pm, ensuring she would get a full 12 hours sleep, so we could then wake her up 45 minutes earlier in the mornings.  This helped immensely.  She could wake and get ready at her typical snail's pace without me freaking out!


What does he eat for breakfast?  Would changing it up a bit help motivate him to eat?  Kids appetites are sometimes dull in the mornings, but we definitely don't want to send them to school on an empty stomach.  You could make a batch of homemade protein/ granola bars over the weekend to last you the week, and maybe he could eat them in the car on the way to school?  (or on the bus, or whatever)  This worked well  for us last year.


Someone on here in a different thread had the wonderful suggestion of actually dressing your kid in his school clothes the night before..Let him sleep in his clothes, and he wakes up dressed!  Even if it was just shirt and clean underwear and socks, that is more than half the battle right there.


Are there distractions going on in the background?  Make sure cartoons/ tv are off, etc.  


It sucks being left alone in the mornings to accomplish all this by yourself.  I'm in the same boat.  

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#3 of 12 Old 02-27-2013, 04:58 PM
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My mom used to dress me in my clothes before bed so I was ready to go in the morning.  


We started a "day time clothes" before breakfast routine.  We had allowed breakfast in pjs and then into day time clothes before we needed to leave, but it always made a clothes a fight (I don't know if you already do that).  After a few months we were able to go back to pj's on non-school days (ds in part-time homeschooled, part-time at a co-op).


My 5 year old still needs/wants help getting dressed a lot of the time.  I think it is about filling the need to know that we will always be there to help him.  It also takes so much less time when we help him (pull shirt off, pull shirt down etc) so you might need to just go back to helping your ds get dressed on school days.  Line up the 5 year old and the 3 year old shirts off, shirts on, pants off, pants on etc.


We have a short list on school day breakfasts to choose from (waffles, cereal, oatmeal, sometimes eggs if we are up early enough).  Ds loves being able to use the toaster to toast his waffle and that has been a real motivator to eat.  You could also come up with some things that are portable and you can always give them to him to eat in the car if he hasn't finished it at breakfast time.

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#4 of 12 Old 02-28-2013, 09:03 AM
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I have 4 kids to get out of the house by 7:40am. I get up by 5:30 at the latest! Lunches packed, backpacks lined up. Each child has a pile of clothes and shoes sitting in the living room. As each child wakes up, I either dress them myself or if they are old enough to do it themselves, I have them do it. I still have to dress my 6 year old sometimes if she is really dragging her feet. Hair is done next. Breakfast after everyone is ready to go. If someone is purposely dragging their feet then they get a cereal bar in the car while we are driving if there isn't enough time for that child to eat. They learned quickly that gets old day after day. 


I've discovered that I have to make them responsible for as little as possible in the morning. I'm the one that has to put the lunch boxes in the backpack, literally hand them their jacket to put on, carry their pile of crap down to the car, etc... Otherwise I spend my entire morning nagging at each separate child to do something and it still doesn't get done. And we end up late.  The whole time the 1  year old is destroying something or screaming bloodily murder. So much fun! Since I dropped what I require of them, my stress level has decreased and I found that we have more then enough time these days to get there. 

There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
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#5 of 12 Old 02-28-2013, 09:20 AM
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When my daughter was that age, I made her a chart with clipart pictures of each step she needed to do in the morning. She would check them off as she did them. For some reason, this did wonders. (I did have to tell her it was OK to go in a different order than on the list, so if I'm making breakfast, you can go brush your hair! LOL)

You didn't mention this, but we also don't do any media in the mornings, and sometimes I even have to pry the book out of my kids' hands to make sure they get ready on time.

Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#6 of 12 Old 02-28-2013, 01:30 PM
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I talked with my ds about how long each step should take included his input in a chart that said what the steps were and approx times. I then set a timer for each step. If the timer goes off before he finishes (rare) then I help him along. After awhile I didn't need to set the timer anymore but if things slow down again or we get up late I do to make sure we stay on track.

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#7 of 12 Old 02-28-2013, 06:56 PM
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Early bedtime is key.  Also, have them pack their bookbags, lay out their outfits, and decide what they want for lunch the evening before.  We leave the house at 730 AM and I wake the kids up at 630.  I, myself, wake up at 530 so I can get myself ready before the kids are on the prowl.  Things are not perfect here in the morning but I have found that being proactive the night before helps a lot.

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#8 of 12 Old 03-03-2013, 01:41 AM
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There's a bit in the book "Playful Parenting" where the author describes his daughter (about 4 at the time I think) refusing to dress herself every day, he tries to encourage her along, but usually ends up cross and shouting, getting out the door in the morning is always a nightmare.  Then one day he takes two of her dolls and has them start a conversation - one of them is saying she can't get dressed by herself, she only 4, no way can she do it, and the other is saying, oh yes she can, I bet she can.  The kid would then race to get dressed while the dolls argued about it, and the dad would have them look away and always miss the moment she actually got dressed then continue the puppet show with the dolls arguing over whether or not she really did it herself.  Soon, the girl loved racing to get dressed herself and before long the dad didn't have to get the dolls to watch/commentate as she had incorporated the routine.  I tried it with my daughter and worked pretty much exactly as he'd said.  It sounds a bit time consuming, but only initially - once the habits have been changed then you save time every day and importantly also change the mood from one of shouty frustration to one of fun and play.  You could use similar tactics for dressing and for eating breakfast.  Even if it's the last thing you feel like, sometimes switching into goofy play mode can really get things moving faster.  Anything to break up a bad routine and switch it for a better one.  My little ones are a similar age to yours - mornings are tough, but you're giving yourself plenty of time to get going so should be able to make it work.  I was tending to leave for school a few minutes late when we first started (20 min walk to school), then I was always rushing the kids and uptight that we were going to be late and the walk to school was horrible - my son would whine and complain because I was getting at him and rushing him.  Just forcing myself to get out the door 3 or 4 minutes earliear, and more importantly to relax and not show my frustration at them made the walk to school 100% more pleasant.  Getting at them didn't really make them go any faster, just made us all unhappy.  Relaxing and trying to enjoy the walk (even if I didn't feel it!) even if it meant being a little late made it much better.  So while yours might not be so much a time issue as mine was, forcing yourself to switch to a more relaxed, playful attitude (even fake it if you're not feeling it!) might make everything go much easier in the morning.  

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#9 of 12 Old 03-03-2013, 05:48 AM
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I agree with lots of the suggestions you've gotten so far. But, wow, my kids would have a hard time with almost two awake hours before school. We have a two-hour delayed opening each month and it's my least favorite day of the month. I'm assuming you aren't waking your kindergartner. If you are, stop. Let him sleep.

I'd have him get dressed, including shoes since they are an issue, first thing. Before breakfast, or anything else. I don't think my kids ever use the bathroom before they go to school. They definitely not like me, in that regard. If he doesn't choose to have breakfast, don't push it. If he doesn't eat, it's not the end of the world. My kids are in kindergarten and second grade. I still put their lunches/snacks in their backpacks and check to make sure they have their folders ready.

I've found that my kids do best if they have no more than 45 minutes from wake up to leaving for school. If we had as much extra time every day, I'd probably let them play outside for a half hour, or so, before leaving.

About 50% of the time, my kids walk out the door with their coats in their hands or in their backpacks. They quickly realize they are freezing and hurry into their coats. Or not. They aren't me and know their own bodies.
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#10 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 06:50 PM
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Maybe consider embracing the slowness and just helping more? Instead of shouting PLEASE get your clothes on 100 times walk over and help him get them on in two minutes then walk to the bathroom for a quick hairbrush and you brush teeth. Then everyone walks to the couch for ten minutes of snuggling / book reading. Wander to the kitchen and get a portable breakfast that can be eaten in the car if needed. Muffin and kefit in a tube/ egg in pita etc. Let the kids play for the thirty minutes and then load the car. Extra food goes in with them. 


Ds has the approach you use currently. Lots of frustration/yelling. And frankly, NO learning about life skills. Should a 5 year old be able to do everything them self when you ask. Um, maybe? Some? All? Who cares. Get out of the house.


I take the slow approach and trust me, my mornings with slow moving DS (5) and hot tempered DD (3) and baby (0) are truthfully a lot more pleasant. Everyone gets to school on time. Fed, clothed, and cleaned. A bit of storytime and playtime to boot.

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#11 of 12 Old 03-13-2013, 02:36 PM
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I have three to get out of the house, including a baby. I used to find it really frustrating as DS1 (7) is sooo slow and I'd end up really grumpy. Now I just help with everything, including dressing both of them if necessary. Our mornings have been transformed and we start the day as a happy family. It isn't ideal but it's certainly better than us all in a bad mood!

Happy mama to DS1 (2006), DS2 (2007) & DD (2012)

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#12 of 12 Old 03-20-2013, 10:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the responses and advice.

Loved the school clothes instead of pjs, but since my boys still end up wearing half of their breakfast I might hold off on that one for a while ; )

The one thing that really struck me though was the advice about expecting a little less and helping my 5yo a little more. Thank you thank you thank you. What a difference, you amazing mamas are right. Of course, I have to constantly remind myself to stay calm and just do what needs done but we have managed to get to school on time, smile and enjoy the morning, even had a couple of mornings where we had a story time. Really nice! I do notice that it is way harder for me to stay calm, help kids and not shout if their baby sister needs fed/ picked up and I can't get to her for helping them and hear her getting upset, aarrrggghhh, why can I not just split myself in two, or three at those times!
You are right though, the thing is just to get out of the house.
Anyway, am enjoying spring break just now, loving our mornings all together, not having to change out of our pjs till the afternoon if that's what we fancy, bliss!
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