From one non-morning person to another, I get it…

I am not a morning person. I don’t sleep late; I just need time to wake up and ease into the day. My four-year-old generally wakes up between 6 and 6:30 with an immediate, loud, insistent request that someone play with him. My husband gets up early and often does morning duty, which works great, but he travels about one week per month for work. When he’s travelling, my son tends to wake up extra early (5:30ish), drags me out of bed, and immediately starts harassing me about playing Legos or hide-and-seek or some game he invented. I’m having a really hard time engaging with him in a productive way when I’m still half asleep. I generally try to tell him that he needs to play by himself while I do the morning chores (making breakfast, making lunches, showering, COFFEE), which usually works for about three minutes before he gets frustrated and resorts to throwing toys around (or at me). I get that he wants attention and that negative attention will do in a pinch. However, it’s just not realistic for me to play with him for a long stretch of time in the morning when we’re trying to get ready, and I’m a pretty terrible playmate then, anyway. I think we probably have a larger issue around helping him to develop some independence (he’s an only child and is extremely attention-hungry despite getting tons of attention), but, for the time being, working on our solo-parent mornings would be a positive step. Any suggestions for starting out mornings on a better foot?

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Many, many parents have extraordinarily early mornings with their children. You are not alone.

I have worked with parents of early-rising children for a long time, and I have yet to meet people who have successfully forced their toddlers and pre-schoolers to sleep in more and to entertain themselves for long stretches of time.

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The typical toddler or pre-schooler wakes up ready to play

We need to figure out a way to (a) sleep a little more, (b) respect their development, and (c) get everything done with as little hassle and upset as possible.

Here are my ideas:

  1. Create a feasible plan. Shower and make lunches the night before, and have the breakfast table set with some overnight oats ready to go. No morning is perfect, so build time into your schedule.
  2. Use your iPad or laptop and put it right in bed with you! I prefer a slowly paced show for young brains, but any age-appropriate show will do.
  3. Taking small tasks out of the morning will give you 10 or 15 minutes of floor time with your child. Create a short list of what you can do together (Legos, hide-and-seek, etc.) and set the timer. Play with him until the timer goes off and then proceed with the morning. He may protest, but if you keep up this routine, he will adapt.
  4. Pre-schoolers are expert doers. They love to feel significant and important, so give them jobs! Can they dish up the oatmeal or put cereal into their bowls? Can he put the shoes in front of the door with your keys? Can she be in charge of making sure doors are locked, seat belts on? A bored pre-schooler makes lots of trouble, so give them some checklists.
  5. Speaking of boredom, it is appropriate and needed for your child to not be entertained. It is a losing battle thinking that you can play and get ready to leave. While his whining will chip away at your soul, he is building the resilience that he needs to cope with not getting what he wants as he gets older. The more you can weather his crying, the better off for him down the road.

The order of the mornings is connection, then direction

If you take the time to have a bit of fun, be silly, sing and be as light-hearted as you can, your child will become more amenable. Do your best to remember that, and before you know it, you will have a teenager who won’t want to get out of bed.

Article by Meghan Leahy, first published on ‘Washington Post’.

Author: ANA Newswire