Mornings can be challenging and if we don’t have a lot of time or energy every little task that causes difficulties can really send our day down a negative path.

We can end up screaming at our kids, with battles, tears, threats and of course the ensuing parenting guilt.

For some general advice I recommend that you read the blog ‘how to get out the door in the morning’ CLICK here to read.

But here are a few practical tips for how you can focus on the individual task of getting dressed in the morning.

1. Adopt a military style process where you sit down together and analyse the issues and come up with a plan, TOGETHER:
● Use an I-message to start the conversation: I don’t like getting so mad in the morning over getting dressed so how can we set up a plan that will make us all happy? CLICK here to learn about using an I-message.
● Ask: what do you think is working well and what do you think is not working?
● Ask: how do you think we can solve this problem?
● Give them choices: let them be involved in choosing what they are going to wear so they feel they have some control and are involved in the process. Keep it simple and limit the choices to two. Make life easier by giving them a choice of jumper or T-shirt and you choose the rest.
● A good morning starts the night before: make sure the clothes they are wearing the next day are ready and laid out the night before so they don’t need to make decisions in the morning.
● Agree WHEN they will get dressed: if you know there might be challenges here make sure it doesn’t happen last minute when you have less time and can already feel the stress levels going up. You can use the WHEN, THEN rule: when you are dressed, you can watch television and eat breakfast. When you are dressed you can come down for breakfast etc.
● Check if they need help: it might be that they are struggling with certain parts of getting dressed so ask them if they need help with something. Otherwise, trust them to do it themselves. Yes, it is quicker to do it for them but they won’t learn to be independent and they might feel that you don’t believe in them.
● Expect some level of resistance: our kids are like small scientists and are always on the lookout for ways to get out of what they don’t want to do or get what they want. And that is just how it should be. So, it’s natural and normal if your child shows some level of resistance, it’s how you manage it that matters. Because you have created an agreement all you need to do is refer to it and stick to the plan in a calm and firm manner. So stay calm and control your own emotions. CLICK here to read about how to manage your emotions.
● Use praise: instead of commanding, use this tool called ‘step-by-step praise. This is where you see ALL small improvements towards getting dressed (or the desired outcome) as a successful achievement that needs your full attention. So, if they look at you when you ask them to get dressed, show that you have noticed it and like it: ‘thank you for listening to me, I really appreciate that you are going to get dressed as agreed’. Or, if they start walking towards their room, you can acknowledge that they are walking towards their room to get dressed, that you have noticed it and like it. You can use words, you can use hugs or smiles or you can walk with them to show them that you are part of this process and take it so seriously that you are also going to give the task your time.
● Stay mentally and physically connected: I know you are busy in the morning too but try to give the task your full attention in the beginning so they feel that you are there with them. They might have learned they get negative attention from NOT getting dressed and as we know, kids love attention. So, try to stay connected with them and follow them through all the steps that they need to do. This way they don’t need to throw a tantrum to get attention, they are getting it already, the positive way. Once the task has become a habit and is working you can slowly step back. This way we guide them with our positive attention instead of waiting for them to not do it and then start nagging.
● Use natural consequences: don’t start forcing clothes on them. If they still refuse point blank, let them go to school in their PJs. Believe me, that will only happen once!

Mette Theilmann, Director of Predictable Parenting & founder of the Parenting Community App