How to Get Your Kid Out the Door in the Morning Without Too Much Trouble*

*Not a perfect system, but helpful tools nonetheless (i.e., when I *actually* adhere to them). I write this from a tough morning wherein it took us the better (by which I really mean “worse”) part of an hour and a half to do what could have been accomplished in 20 minutes or less. Lest you think I’m writing this smugly in an I-Have-It-ALLLLLL-Figured-Out-and-You-Should-Be-Like-Me sort of way. In short, I should be following my own G.D. advice.

Getting out the door in the morning is the bane of my existence and undoubtedly that of many other parents. You mean I *have* to get dressed? Brush my teeth? SIT ON THE POTTY??? Oh no no no Mommy! I *HAVE* to put this sparkly bird sticker! On my face! Because [BFF] did it yesterday! MY SOCKS! ARE. TOO. TIGHT. MUST. THROW. FIT. NOW. (And I don’t CARE that I could just simply go change them! No! Never!)

As you probably know, “getting organized” is my catchphrase and so of course it helped me to try to control everything think about how to get organized around this.

To start, we set a series of non-negotiable tasks that need to be accomplished every morning (notice I didn’t say “before we get out the door;” more on that later):

  • Eat breakfast
  • Get dressed
  • Sit on the potty
  • Brush teeth
  • Wash face
Clock infographic

Then, we set up a time frame with two anchor points: 1) Breakfast is over and 2) The car is leaving. Because my daughter doesn’t yet tell time, I made some very rudimentary infographics for her (Note: that is a cereal bowl, representing “breakfast”) and stuck them to the clock so to indicate that when the big hand is pointing to that picture, something is supposed to happen at that time.

I chose these two items because they seemed the most appropriate for me to have control over–I drive the car, and we follow the incomparable Ann Keppler’s rule about food, that being that parents decide WHEN and WHAT kids eat and kids decide IF and HOW MUCH. And I want E to have autonomy over age-appropriate tasks like getting dressed (as long as she has on the basics) and so on.

So other than me pronouncing breakfast is over and/or the car is leaving, she decides the order that everything else happens. I prompt (read: cajole, goad, nag, etc.) by offering choices, such as “Do you want to sit on the potty next or brush your teeth next?” And then [theoretically], we get out the door by ten ’til.

Sometimes, however, she doesn’t want to do a particular task. Here are some strategies we use to counteract this:

Example #1: The [Dreaded] Potty

The Situation: She doesn’t want to go. She claims she doesn’t have to go. Yet the accident she often has later in the day would beg to differ.

The Strategy: The rule in our house is that she has to sit on the potty before we go, but whether or not she goes is up to her body. It’s sort of a variation on the aforementioned food rule–we decide WHEN potty time happens, she decides IF she goes.

Example #2: Getting Dressed Is Hard, or Socks/Leggings/Underpants/Anything Tight Suck[s]

The Situation: My daughter is VERY particular about how clothes fit and feel on her body. While my highest self wants to be sensitive and loving to this trait, it bugs the shit out of my lower self because finding clothes that she will actually, consistently wear is really challenging. We have a whole drawer full of clothes that she absolutely loved in the store but now won’t touch with a 10-ft. pole because, well, just fucking because. (Although, I’m learning that this seems to be a phase. She wouldn’t deign to touch a pair of tights three months ago, but now they are no big deal.) So, some days getting dressed is painless, other days, she will put something on and then get very upset because of how it feels. The latter seems to happen a lot when we are running late and I have put pressure on her to hurry up–I’m guessing it’s stress-related. But that is another post for another day.

The Strategy: Here is where I invoke Love and Logic, which is a big proponent of natural consequences administered with a *huge* dose of empathy. Because I have set the expectation that the car is leaving at 8:50, it behooves me to uphold my limit and follow through on that, whether or not the kid is dressed. Ergo, if you don’t want to be nudie in the car, you should get dressed beforehand. For my child, who is sensitive about how things feel on her skin, this is a big deal. After a couple drives to school in the buff (her, not me) followed by getting dressed in the parking lot, I am happy to say that this is no longer an issue for us. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it–this can be a tough one to follow through with because there may be a lot of crying, but that is where the empathy piece is soveryextremelyimportant. L&L offers a lot of canned language (“Bummer!” is a big one) in case you need something to fall back on in a difficult moment when your intellectual brain is obscured by the tornado of emotions you and your kid are flying through. I usually say things like, “I know this is so tough. It’s really hard. You are so mad about this! Now we know that this is something you don’t like. We can try to do it differently tomorrow.” In this way, I am doing my best to uphold the limit and allow the natural consequence to fall, while at the same time being loving, present, and emotion-coach-y. Not easy, but I do believe in limits lovingly administered. Also, this goes for me too–if I know what the limit is, I’m more likely to calmly adhere to and administer it and less likely to blow up out of frustration because I’ve said the same shit 55 times.

Example #3: The Fear of Starvation

The Situation: E gets up really late or chooses to play around instead of focusing on eating.

Me, eating Corn Flakes, circa 1980.

Me, eating Corn Flakes, circa 1980.

The Strategy: This is another example of natural consequences–that if I don’t get up early enough or choose to play instead of eat, then I miss out when breakfast time is Officially Over. Your kid won’t starve by only having two bites of cereal one or two mornings of her or his life (not to be callous or patronizing or anything–I mean this lovingly and with empathy to you and your kid[s], seriously!), and s/he will quickly learn to make a within-limits choice. (And, that is why God and preschool invented snack time.) I will admit that if E gets up realllly late, like post-breakfast-infographic-indicator-late, I will let her eat something. But I communicate the expectation that breakfast time is very short and/or she can have [x] in the car on the way to school.

So there you have it, our morning strategy, which, when I follow it, works great! I now need a strategy that will help me adhere to my strategy.

What about you, what works for you?