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Happy Face Mornings or Avoiding Morning Madness

Good mornings certainly set the stage for having “good days.”  It’s been my experience that smooth mornings don’t just happen; they require planning!

Through the years of being a working Mom, there were some strategies, which contributed to more happy mornings at our house.  In addition to my ideas, here’s “Tips for Managing Mornings” from Parent Pages, March 1995. 

Because getting enough sleep is a must for us to have pleasant mornings, check out “Steps to Smooth Bed and Naptimes.”  Hopefully, there’s an idea or two, which will assist your family to start more of your days with Happy Faces.

Pat Lacoste, Kinder Haus Founder  

PAT’S STRATEGIES FOR AVOIDING MORNING MADNESS 

  • DRESSING STATIONS- designated spot in everyone’s bedroom or dressing area.  This can be a chair or “valet.”  The night before, organize all items of clothing and accessories.  You can dress without making any decisions!  Children can be involved in choosing their outfits and getting their shoes and socks, etc.  This works best if it becomes a regular part of after supper routine. 
  • PICK UP SPOT- bench, shelf, or box next to door through which you exit.  Place all items you want to take with you there:  brief case, purse, school bags, etc. 
  • KEY HANGER- inside your door.  Use it habitually. 
  • DESIGNATED HANGERS- clothes’ hangers on which you organize your weekly wardrobe.  On the weekends, select outfits and hang on designated hangers-making sure that buttons, zippers, hems, and belts are all ready. 
  • BREAKFAST MENU- decide in advance what each morning’s breakfast will be.  Your children can help you plan as you clean the kitchen the night before.  Setting the breakfast table and checking all needed items this a much simpler chore.  Sitting down with your child at this time can be a real quality time. 
  • PLAN MORNING ROUTINE- how much time do you want/need for yourself?  I liked to get up early so I could be a person before I had to be a Mommy.  Is it better for your children to eat in their PJ’s and then change into their school clothes?  This helped us avoid spills on school clothes and the necessary changes. 
  • ADJUST BEDTIMES- children’s and yours.  No one can be happy when they are tired.  Children are especially thrown off when their sleep schedules are not kept consistent. 
  • KEEP TV AND RADIOS OFF – the noise of TV and radio can quickly raise the “hype” level of adults and children.  Frequently, children arrive at school angry because they didn’t want to leave a video or TV program.  Quiet mornings help us all to be calmer and less frazzled.   

TIPS FOR MANAGING MORNINGS

Mornings are more hectic during the week when you have to stay on a schedule.  Everyone must work together to make it happen.  Remember that children are more demanding if they feel they’re being ignored, rushed, or manipulated.  Be sure to take the time to say “Good Morning” and wrap them in a warm hug.  It helps! 

  • WARM UP THE MORNING- slow down—rushing adds tension.  Sing or hum or put on relaxing music.  Look for humor. 
  • RELY ON SIMPLE STRATEGIES- Let the children make choices about what they wear.  Let your children dress to a timer-can they get dressed before the timer goes off?  Get dressed first, then have breakfast.  Encourage independent skills.  Use a nurturing touch.  Kindness is contagious! 
  • MAKE BREAKFAST FUN AND SIMPLE-serve banana slices dipped in yogurt.  Sprinkle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon on buttered toast.  If you eat with your child, breakfast is bound to go smoother!  Put a smiley face of raisins on oatmeal or cereal. 
  • ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE- pack baby and toddler bags the night before.  Choose and lay out clothes for older children.  Plan for the unexpected-the misplaced keys, the snowstorm, the tantrum.  Set realistic goals, you can’t expect children to get ready in ten minutes.  Elementary-aged children can pack their own lunches.  

STEPS TO SMOOTH BED AND NAPTIMES

Pat Lacoste, Kinder Haus Founder  

Bedtime 

Prepare your child’s room so that it is calming.  Toys on shelves.  One lamp.  Decide on an evening schedule like: 

  • Dinner
  • Brief play period
  • Pick up toys
  • Select clothes for next day
  • Bathe, brush teeth, last potty-if trained

Reading time (2 books of appropriate length), you may want to create a basket of appropriate choices from which your child may choose.  Turn on soft music audiotape or CD (no TV or videos). 

  • Child in bed with comfort items
  • Night light on
  • Prayers, kiss, hug
  • Lamp out (some children like to pretend blowing out the light)
  • Good night.  Parent leaves the room.

If your child is accustomed to your putting him/her to sleep, you may well encounter resistance.  Remember that the goal is to teach your child to go to sleep alone.  It’s a learned skill, like riding a bike.  There may be some falls or feelings of discouragement, before mastery.  Once learned, it is a lifetime skill.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings about the process.  In our hurried world, bedtime is often the only quiet snuggle time we have with our children.  We enjoy it too.  To meet your needs and your child’s for this quiet closeness, make time earlier in the evening to snuggle and your child all your attention.  No video, no TV—just the two of you to talk, hug, rock, sing, snuggle, read.  I know, where is the time?  Sometimes we need to make sacrifices to find it and make it a priority.  This step is a big one and can be exhausting and nerve wracking.  Your child will be happy and so will you, once it’s behind you. 

If you’ve been lying down with your child, rocking or holding: 

  • Begin by sitting beside him/her and gently patting.
  • After a few nights, sit on the floor next to the bed.
  • Then move to the doorway.
  • Next step is the hallway.

During these steps, you are nearby to reassure your child.  They will sometimes talk to you; you need to ignore the conversation.  It sometimes helps to sit with your eyes closed.

If your child gets out of bed, put them back and simply say, “It’s time to sleep.”  These steps are providing your child “training wheels”; your presence is to reassure a child who may be frightened.  But, there are children who are not afraid, they just want you to do it the old way and this does not work. 

In Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, he advocates allowing the child to cry for a few minutes, return and reassure.  You may want to check it out to see if you wan to try this approach.

Some children become angry when you return and don’t do what you’ve always done.  If this is the case, you may need to clearly, firmly tell the child what you expect.  At bedtime, I expect you to go to sleep in your own bed.  Depending on the age of your child, this could be all it takes. 

With others, you may have to let them cry it out.  If you are going to do this, be prepared to see it through.  It’s often best to start this on a Friday night so you can see it through over the weekend.

The first night, your child may cry for 20, 30 minutes.  Could be longer and it will certainly seem like an eternity.  Second night will be shorter, third less, etc.  This is hard on you.  Your child is most likely angry but is okay.  It will work, because the child will realize that you have confidence in their ability to go to sleep alone and that screaming is not doing any good.  If you give in, the child will likely scream longer the next time because the screaming worked!  

By instituting a schedule that ensures that your child is really sleepy, you may shorten the period of crying.

If your child awakens during the night, you follow the same procedures.  If your child comes to your bed, calmly escort them to their bed, tell him/her that they are okay, it’s time to sleep.  Going back to sleep is also dependent upon the child’s ability to go to sleep alone.  If your child is awakening for a bottle, wean them off this feeding by watering down until they are not dependent upon this.  

Naptime

Naptime process is to follow the same steps you’ve adopted at night.  

We realize that there are different schools of thought on this subject.  This is an attempt to share some tried and true techniques.  We recognize that every child and family is different and unfortunately there is not one easy formula.  It is sometimes a trial and error approach.  Talk to your pediatrician, your friends, and your family for support and ideas.  If you discover something that works, share it with us.  Kinder Haus periodically presents a workshop called, “Bedtime:  Battleground or Bliss.” 

All of our parenting programs can be brought to your workplace for “brown bag” lunchtime training, if there are five or more people who are interested.  E-mail us and we’ll get back to you.