Q.We have two boys, ages 13 and 16. My husband leaves early for work, so it’s my job to get the boys up, ready for school and out to the car for the drive to school. I have to call them several times before they finally get up. By then I’m frantic, because we barely make it to school on time, and they have to eat in the car on the way. This frenzy every morning is driving me crazy. I’ve heard of parents pouring water on their kids to get them up, but I don’t want to do that. What else can I do to make the mornings go better?
A. I’m with you on not throwing water on children. I’ve also heard of putting peanut butter on the kid’s cheek and getting the dog to lick it off to cause a kid to wake up. I probably wouldn’t do that, either. I’d try other things first.
You’re not alone in this struggle to get your teens out of bed. Your kids — and many others — have learned that a parent will take responsibility for getting them up, but now is the time to change that script. Let your kids know they’re old enough to take responsibility for getting themselves up and ready for school. It’s also their consequence if they’re too late to grab breakfast or if they walk in late to school. Teaching kids to take responsibility is one of the most important tasks of parenting.
You can also help your children by doing some of the following things:
- Provide some sort of alarm they can set to get themselves up. Some kids prefer to wake to music, while others may opt for a loud alarm.
- Have a set routine for the evenings before school days. Have set times to study, have dinner, lay out clothes and supplies for the next day. Kids may elect to shower the night before school or get up early enough to shower the day of school. Having a set routine and getting ready the night before school makes the morning go easier.
- Set a time before bedtime when all technology use stops. When kids use social media just before bedtime — or in some cases during the first few hours when they are supposed to be sleeping — they don’t get enough quality sleep.
- It’s possible your kids are staying up too late and missing important sleep time. Ask them to think about why sleep is important. They may already know some of the reasons, but make sure they know that sleep promotes growth, increases attention span, increases learning ability and affects weight. On the other hand, lack of sleep can adversely affect physical and mental health. Anxiety, depression and physical pain can increase with the lack of sufficient sleep.
- Provide rewards to kids who get up on time, make their beds, eat breakfast and are ready to go on time. Some parents reward with a stop on the way to school for a special treat, while for others it’s shopping for something special or tied to when they can take their driver’s license test or earning extra time on devices. Be sure to give verbal praise when kids get up and get ready on time.
- Other ideas that have worked for parents include letting some natural light into the kid’s room, staying calm and not adding to the drama when kids don’t want to get up, and starting early to ease your kids back into a reasonable bedtime if you’ve let them stay up later during vacation or holidays.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.