My kid hates getting out of bed. I don't blame her; I do, too. We wake to a list of chores—shower, dress, eat, pack, go!
Getting a kid up and at 'em can be super frustrating. I've even read posts from parents bragging about getting their kids up by splashing them with ice water. But that's not the kind of relationship I want to build with my child. Also, by splashing my kid with cold water, I'm only contributing to the morning drama.
Two changes can drastically improve mornings:
- Building on a kid's innate behaviors and natural inclinations.
- Creating an intentional morning routine, rather than just letting mornings happen.
Trouble waking up does not equate to laziness
“People span the range of those who are very early risers to very late setters, and this is genetically determined," says Frederick Brown, a professor of psychology at Penn State. Calling a child “lazy" can backfire. Over time, they might internalize the label, then use it to justify negative behaviors.
Research shows that rather than laziness, difficulty waking up and getting out of bed is a result of many factors. Many of them are even genetic. Studies have found that each person's unique biological clocks are set at birth. Genetics establishes a person's “chronotype," which helps determine to when their body feels up and at 'em.
This isn't an excuse for letting kids linger in bed. Rather, it's a reason for making a plan that works with a kid's internal wiring.
Better ways to get a kid out of bed in the morning
1. Study and understand your kid
Work with the reality of your kid's disposition and habits. It's not just their attitude – it's who they are. As mentioned, science shows that some kids really are night owls, and some are early birds. If you know your kid needs more time to wake up, build that into the family morning routine.
2. Are they getting enough sleep?
Kids need much more sleep than adults (10 hours at least). Here's a helpful guide of how much sleep the entire family needs.
Do everything you can to get them to sleep earlier and to sleep sounder. Snoring siblings, too much light, going to bed too late, a non-restful sleep environment, over-exhaustion, screen time close to bed, diet, and exercise all affect a kid's ability to sleep. (For kids, exercise may be the strongest positive influence for sleep.)
In severe cases of not getting up, your child may have a serious sleep issue, depression, deficiency or another issue such as SAD. In that case, it's good to get them checked out. And, you may think your kid is getting enough sleep, but it might be low-quality sleep.
3. Start with an “I love you! Good morning!"
In the long run, starting the day with love and understanding sets everyone up for success.
4. Build in time for simmering
In my house, we call hanging out in bed in the morning “simmering." I love to simmer in bed for a bit before I get up – to think about the day ahead, or just letting my imagination roam. A few minutes of simmering is built into our family schedule.
5. Don't fuel the drama
Getting a kid out of bed can be incredibly frustrating. However, you lose in two ways if you fall into the habit of yelling at them to get up. First, that will make them burrow further in bed to avoid you. Then over time, you train them to ignore you.
6. Wake them by singing to them
Good voice or bad, this will wake them up. Singing a kid awake is just as sweet as singing them to sleep.
7. Put a radio in their room and play their favorite song while they wake up
Music is a great way to wake up. Make a playlist and start it every morning.
8. Play a favorite podcast or audiobook to get them out of bed
They can start listening in bed, and then as they get dressed.
9. Bake something that smells delicious
Smells can entice littles to get out of bed. Bacon, waffles and pancakes never fail.
10. Do a weekly donut run
Once a week or so I bring my kid to get a donut on the way to school. It's a special little trip for us, and it's one day she gets out of bed without fail.
11. Put up a simple, 3-5 step morning checklist for them to follow
12. Do your household chores in the AM
Vacuum, cook, whatever. Get the house going. It may not get them out of bed, but they won't fall back asleep.
13. Bring a pet in to wake them up
14. Get a Clocky
15. Use an automated wake-up light
These will ease the transition from sleep to waking up.
16. Raise the temperature
From 65 to 68 or higher (a smart thermostat can do that automatically.)
17. Give them an alarm clock and teach them how to use it
It will probably take several lessons before they get it. Don't let them hit snooze!
18. Make sure they have everything they need in the morning set out the night before
Just like grownups, kids have an easier time taking action when they know exactly what to do next. This includes what to wear to school.
Ultimately, this is something they need to do for themselves. But plan on helping them with this task for a few weeks before creating the new routine.
19. If you can, put them in a room with natural light
Our bodies are tuned to wake up with natural sunlight. Even a single window can help kids wake up in the morning.
20. Consider letting them have a few minutes of tech
Or TV time after they're fully ready for school.
Some people call it “when / then" parenting. Bribes have extremely limited long-term power, but I'm not ashamed to say that this trick worked wonders in my house.
21. Let your kid experience the natural consequences of being late
To school and in life. In the long run, it's best for your kid to experience the natural consequences of sleeping in. That might mean being late for school, camp, or playdates. It might mean missing out on breakfast. It's better for many kids to learn this lesson sooner than later, to keep you from becoming your kid's lifelong sleep coach and master.
Use these tips and a renewed understanding of your kid's biological clock to create new family routines. Routine is one of the most important elements to getting a kid going in the morning.
As parents, it's easy to get locked in a routine without pausing to reconsider and reinvent it. But reinventing morning routines solves many problems. New routines take time, practice, monitoring, and patience.