How to get children ready for school in good time

We have had many, many battles in my attempts to find out how to get children ready for school in good time.  My daughter is still young and is able to get up, feel motivated and get herself dressed and ready straight away.  My son, however, has made several attempts at the world record for slowest time to put a single sock on.  Here are some of the ideas that we have tried when trying to find the answer for how to get children ready for school in good time.

How to get your children ready for school in good time

Talk to your child about getting ready on time

After a couple of weeks of me asking my son nicely, politely, calmly for 45 minutes each morning and getting absolutely nowhere, I kept turning into this crazy, shouty Mum who felt very stressed indeed.  I was getting to the point where panic was setting in. How hard is it to get dressed?  Why does it take so long to put on your socks?  Why do you need a 30 minute break after putting your shirt on?  I was worried about being late for school, nursery and work.  The only thing that seemed to work and get my son motivated was to go crazy at my son.   Lots of shouting, along with bad moods was not unusual during these mornings.  It got us to school on time but it was hard work as well as being stressful for all of us.  Not ideal by any means.

When I had some time to think about what to do about this stressful situation, I decided that the very best thing to do would be to talk to my son.  Calmly.  In the evening, not at getting ready for school time.  Here are some of the things I asked him:

  • How do you feel when we are getting ready for school?  He said that he didn’t want to get up and felt tired.  He didn’t feel like getting dressed.  The mornings were stressful and he didn’t like that he had to rush his breakfast.  He found it difficult to chose what he would like to eat for breakfast each morning.
  • What do you think would help you to get ready faster in the mornings?  Do you think that this would help us all to feel less stressed?

Another thing that we discussed were the consequences of not getting ready on time.  I asked him:

  • What will happen if we are not ready to leave the house on time?  He said that we will all probably feel stressed, he might be late for school. He said he would probably miss his breakfast or have to rush it, which he doesn’t like doing.
  • What happens if we are late for school? He said that he would have to go through the office to get to the classroom as they will have locked the gate.
  • How would you feel about being late? My son said that he would feel sad because my friend was late the other day.   He missed out on the morning activity and said his friend felt a bit weird because everyone else was there and had been chatting already, without him.  S did not want to miss out on these things.

We had a constructive discussion about these consequences and then worked together on the answers to the question of how to get him ready for school in good time.  Many of these answers came from my son.

How to get children ready for school in good time: The Night Before

My son admitted that he had been sneaking his tablet upstairs to watch Minecraft videos.  We discussed how this might be contributing to him going to sleep late at night.  My son has a lot of worries at the moment, which means that he does go to sleep later than he should but without the tablet, he is more likely to go to sleep a bit earlier.  He agreed to keeping the tablet downstairs.  I think that this would work with watching television and playing games on electronic devices as well.

I like to keep several options for breakfasts in the cupboard.  After years of living in the countryside, which was half and hour drive from any shops, I have a habit of bulk buying.  I now live in a town, but I still seem to do it.  Maybe there is too much choice for my son.  We have discussed how we can manage this.  He thought it might be a good idea to chose which breakfast he would like, the night before.  He wouldn’t have to think about which cereal to chose on those mornings where he still wanted to be in bed instead of thinking about what he would like to eat.

How to get children ready for school in good time: Wake Up Earlier

My son felt that he did not have enough time to get ready in the mornings.  I think this was an excuse more than anything.  He felt like an hour was not enough time to get dressed, have breakfast and brush his teeth.  I explained that this was a good amount of time but still took his concerns seriously.  We decided that he should get up fifteen minutes earlier than usual.  To help him do this, I got him an alarm clock.  His own alarm clock as previously, he had relied on me to wake him.  With an alarm clock, he felt more responsible for getting himself up without the need for me to nag at him.  As he gets older, having extra little bits of responsibility helps to motivate him.

How to get children ready for school in good time: Competition

My children really enjoy being competitive, especially with each other.  With this in mind, we thought about timing them to see who can get ready the fastest.  Using a stopwatch or app on the iPad can help to motivate them to get ready.  Alternatively, they can just race against each other, without being timed.  This can be a lot of fun!

Positive reinforcements

I think that telling your child that they have done well in getting ready quickly can help.  Pointing out, now and again, how far they have come since the days of the one item of clothing per half hour annoyances can do wonders for their motivation.  Alternatively, rather than telling them, asking them is good too.  I find with my son, that if something comes from him, rather than me telling him, it has a much bigger impact and has a long lasting effect on him.

How to get children ready for school in good time: Rewards

I have always had the rule that my children are to get dressed and ready first and then, only then, are they allowed to play.  We don’t usually watch television in the morning though, otherwise we get, “But this programme hasn’t finished yet, we need to watch the end.”  Not ideal if you need to leave at 8.30am and the programme doesn’t finish until 8.45am.  We found that the advent calendars during December were good motivators for my children, although I know that that is not an all year round solution.

My son suggested using a points scoring system to reward him for getting ready on time.  I have used these kinds of charts successfully before but I am also vary wary of them.  Reward charts are good and can be very effective and a good starting point for motivating children.  For my children though, I would like them to have more intrinsic forms of motivation.  I would like them to be motivated to get dressed and ready for school so that they are ready for school on time and so that they can see the rewards from being in school on time and being able to eat their breakfast without having to rush or skip it.  I’m not sure that I want them to be only motivated by the fact that they will get points/sweets/toys for doing something that they should be doing anyway.   I don’t get a point/sweets/toys each time I get dressed.

How to get children ready for school in good time: Routine

A good routine is very useful when getting ready for school in the mornings.  If my children know what to expect from their morning, they are more able to cope with it.  We get dressed, eat breakfast, have a wash and brush teeth then put coats on ready to start our journey for school.  We know what time we have to do each activity and we can get it done in that time, even if we are not consciously thinking about it.

We make sure that we are prepared for getting ready too.  I always make sure that uniforms and clothes are laid out ready for the morning.  We have mornings in the past, where items of clothing have been misplaced.  It used to happen with shoes a lot when S first started Primary School.  I still have no idea how one shoe can be lost when the other is on the shoe rack. Furthermore, I could never understand how S had no idea where it was or how it moved their either.

How to get children ready for school in good time: Other Thoughts

During  cooler months, even I find it difficult to get out of bed.  I now always make sure that we have a quick blast of heat about the time that we get up.  I find it motivates me more to get up and S has said that it helps him too.  He as also suggested that making a special breakfast now and again would help during these months too.  I’ve recently been looking at recipes for porridge that can be made in the slow cooker.  I think that this is definitely an option a it would be great to wake up to warm porridge to fill us up.

How to get children ready for school in good time:  What has Worked for Us

I think that motivating my son to get ready for school in good time has been helped considerably by asking his opinion of how to improve our morning routine.  I think that making him feel more responsible for getting out of bed and getting dressed without me having to say much to him about it, has helped.  My repeated nagging, telling him to get up, to get dressed, and so on did nothing but make me feel stressed.  It worked to a point for a short time but this was never a long term solution.  It was just the only thing I could think of doing at the time when I was feeling tired and panicking about getting everybody where they needed to be on time.  As soon as I stopped repeating my instructions, things worked better for us.  My son had become deaf to my repeated pleas to get ready.  Telling him that I will only say this once and continuing with, “Please get up and get ready for school,” just the once, has helped.  I was under the impression that he would not get ready unless I repeatedly made him aware that time was running out.  I found that if S made his own rules and thought about the reasons why he needed to get ready on time, he was more likely to actually do it.

For the days that he has struggled, he has found that the consequences are that he has to miss breakfast.  We discussed all of this at the start so he was well aware of the consequences.  In much the same way, if he doesn’t do his homework, he knows that the consequences are that he has to stay in at break time at school to complete it, as per the school rules.  It is clear that it is his responsibility and is reinforced by having this expectation for other aspects of his life too.  I was unhappy about the day that he had to miss his breakfast.  It really bothered me.  I nearly backed out and said that we should stay to eat breakfast and just be late.  Fortunately, despite spending the whole day worrying that I’d made the wrong call, it has turned out to be the one and only day that this has happened.  He has been ready on time and has eaten his breakfast, without rushing, every day since.  I think that maybe he needed to see that there were actual consequences of not getting ready on time.  For me to just tell him, repeatedly, that this could be a consequence was ignored by him.  He had to experience it himself, in a controlled manner.  I wouldn’t say that this is something that should happen very often or on a regular basis but for my son, it worked as a short, sharp shock to get him to realise that he did need to get a move on.


How do you get your children ready on time for school?  Which methods work best for you and your family?  Have any of these methods worked well for you?

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