It takes all my residual energy to drag my sleep-laden self out of bed, feel my way to the washroom ( no turning on of lights, thanks to other souls lost in dreamland), fumble and find the light switch and peer at my dishevelled self in the mirror. There are days when I try to summon a fake smile, in the hope that it will wake me up (okay, that doesn’t work on about 6 out of 7 days!). The morning ablutions done, I then make my way to the kitchen, as it beckons with stern discipline.
All this is nothing compared to what my 7-year-old must be going through every morning, during the wake-up call. So, how have I learnt to deal with the morning madness?
It helps if we isolate the causes of the wake-up blues and work backwards to tackle them. Invariably, the reasons originate with sleep or the lack of it.
Some of the reasons for the languor, in our case, are/were:
Not wanting to go to bed
Slow pace of routine
Lack of interest in going to school
- Inadequate sleep
Be it a kid or a grown-up, we all need our beauty sleep. It is the one thing that keeps us healthy and refreshed to take on the challenges of the day. Each child is different, of course. But my daughter needs a good 9 hours of sleep, to feel rested and rejuvenated.
Working that out, keeping the morning routine in mind, I have to ensure that she gets to bed by 8.30 p.m. at the latest. This way, when I call out to her at 5.45 am, she is at least ready to be up and about by 6 or 6.10 am.
This also means cutting down or cutting out the afternoon nap time. Usually, kids start foregoing their mid day naps by the time they turn 5. If your child wants to nap, though, let her do it. Gradually reduce the time taken for the nap. Let’s face it, waking early has its benefits. It’s good for health and you get a lot more done once you are out of bed.
Obviously, the more a child tosses and turns, the less likely she is to wake up with a cheery face. One way to ensure sound sleep is to keep the child active in the evening hours, getting her to play, run, engage in some sport, so that she is tired out by the time bedtime beckons. Sometimes, I run a warm bath and let her take one just before hitting the sack. Other times, my husband gives her a warm oil massage and that ensures that she stays asleep for the entire night.
Not wanting to go to bed
This is a trickier task to tackle. Unless a child wants to go to bed, you can’t ensure that she will be rested enough to wake up the next morning.
How do you make bedtime more appealing? I tried a couple of things:
- Bedtime is story time. So, this means that I either read a book to her or she reads one herself, all cuddled up in her warm blanket. This also winds down the system naturally and is ideal, instead of TV or other distractions just before sleep.
- Make the bed an inviting place. Colourful bedsheets, their favourite dolls to snuggle with and a dedicated pillow or blanket makes kids feel special. This is also an effective method when you are trying to transition the child to sleeping on her own in her bed, maybe even in a separate room. Gy has slept in a separate room since she turned 4.5.
- Slow pace of routine
- This was something that I had to discover for myself, as part of trial and error. My readers would know by now that Gy is the slow and steady kind. Watching my husband with Gy made me realise that she revelled in an activity when it was made into fun and healthy competition.
One morning, I told her that we would have a friendly race between us: she would need to be dressed and seated at the table under 10 minutes, while I went and changed into outdoor clothes to drop her off at the bus stop. The reward for this was the triumph of being the first one, nothing more.
The first day I did this, she jumped to the task, getting everything done in record speed and I deliberately delayed my routine, so she would be ahead. I reacted in mock disbelief when I saw her, all set to go, neatly attired from head to toe. She giggled and said,’ Wow, I won! Amma, you were too slow.’
It must be the motherhood hormones, but I have never felt happier to lose at something before! 😉
- Lack of interest in going to school
- Ok, that’s probably a no-brainer. I mean, which kid ‘likes’ to go to school?
I had discussed this in an earlier post, about how positive reinforcement, repeated ad nauseum, is very helpful; here , the parent has to praise the teacher, talk about the fun stuff in school, all the great secrets that can only be shared with friends and paint such a fascinating picture of the whole set-up that the child feels motivated to get out of bed and get ready on time.
More often, though, it isn’t that the child dislikes school, but dislikes the idea of getting out of bed. For this, I tried various techniques: cajoling, bribing with the promise of an extra comic to read before school (I don’t offer TV as a reward, simply because I don’t want to), getting to play an extra half hour in the park that evening and more. While most of these worked fine on some days, there was no sustainable solution.
- That is when I tried out the Melissa and Doug responsibility chart. With its promise of non-material rewards, it is a lifesaver! The child is so intrigued by the colours and the tiny words of praise inscribed on each coin that getting tasks done seems like a dream now!
Well, interestingly enough, while last year I struggled to get her out the door, now, I just need to say that she may need to stay home and that upsets her a good deal! So, hang in there, moms and dads!