Teaching Independence

Getting your kids up and out in the morning tops the list of daily behavioral hassles for most households. The situation often brings out the worst in everybody. Many people - both parents and kids - are naturally crabby in the morning and there is the additional pressure of having to get someplace on time. The nervousness, nagging and emotion thunderstorms that result can easily ruin everyone's day.

For the kids, getting up and out in the morning involves a whole sequence of positive behaviors: out of bed on time, washing up, brushing teeth, making the bed, eating breakfast and leaving on time. What is required varies some from family to family but it's basically the same job.


With most kids ages 2-4, you'll have to help them get ready and supervise them closely. They just can't sustain the activity for that long. Use a lot of praise and positive reinforcement during the process.

For kids up to 9, using charting plus a kitchen timer can be very helpful. Stickers can be used on the chart - or numbers. The child's favorite sticker may be the reward for a good job of getting ready and no sticker means better luck tomorrow!


For 9-Up, the program involves some semi-drastic alterations in the morning routine, which often shock the kids into changing.

It's important to realize that most of these kids want to go to school and will be embarrassed if they show up late. So if they linger in the morning, they are going ot have some trouble with someone in the car pool or with the principal or teachers. Most kids don't want these kinds of hassles, so we use the threat of these natural consequences to help shape them up.


What you are doing is teaching the kids some independence and invoking a sacred rule of psychology: Sometimes learning the hard way is the best way to learn. The lessons sink in more when kids get burned a few times than they do when the little ones simply listen to a lecture.