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March 17, 2010 12:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I constructively get my 4 year old to get up and get ready in the morning?

My 4 1/2 year old daughter has recently developed a habit of refusing to get out of bed and generally is uncooperative in the morning. A common complaint is that she is tired in the morning and doesn't want to get up. (Of course, on the weekend she's up bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the same time of day.)

Things which may be useful:
--She goes to bed between 7 and 7:30. Don't think we can really push it much earlier and have any hope of having her actually go to sleep.
--I start waking her up at about 7:10. We need to be leaving the house no later than 8:15, and closer to 8 would be easier. I don't get up until 7, but I could get up earlier if it would help. But I have tried giving her 20 minutes after I go in and turn on the lights and try to wake her up, and it seems to have no effect, except that it's 20 minutes later than it was.
--She's in daycare, but hasn't been willing to take a nap since she was about 2 1/2. I don' realistically think I can get her to nap.
--The really uncooperative behavior is fairly recent, say in the last month or so.

I've tried going in and putting music (rock) on a few minutes before starting to wake her up. I've tried jollying her along. I've tried giving her exciting options for clothes to try to get her to open her eyes (she usually just turns over and complains she's tired). I've tried to motivate her by making things a race (this often works at night). Mostly, things degenerate into everyone being angry and frustrated.

(It's possible that some of this is related to the change in light as we're approaching spring, but that's only going to get worse. I'm off to get blackout curtains later today to try to help with the going-to-bed issues.)
posted by leahwrenn to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it isn't just that she hates daycare and/or something there is stressing her?
posted by Ashley801 at 1:02 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

It sounds like she isn't excited to start the day. Has there been a change at the daycare, over the last month?

If she is waking up happy and excited on the weekends at the same time it sounds like the problem isn't an issue of how much she's sleeping. I would guess that she isn't enjoying her daytime activities as much as she once did - perhaps a change in teacher, new kids there, a feeling that other kids are 'favourites'...
posted by valoius at 1:03 PM on March 17, 2010

How is she doing at daycare?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:03 PM on March 17, 2010

Buy poptarts. With icing. Not the old-school ones.
posted by Slap Factory at 1:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Personally, it sounds like she's testing the limits of your authority, not that she's actually tired. I wouldn't give her concessions like an extra 20 minutes of sleep, not when she's just testing you.

Give her a consequence to not waking up and follow through. Once you established that you're serious and aren't going to let her manipulate you, she should hopefully drop it.

That might sound harsh - I just think 4 is probably too young to sit her down and ask for suggestions or solutions, and consider her input, like you would an older kid. I think the best solution is to put your foot down.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:06 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

(But yes, I would check the daycare for issues too. It just sounds like she's at the age for testing boundaries.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:08 PM on March 17, 2010

Nthing that if she's happy and excited to get up and greet the day on weekends, when she spends the day with you, and unhappy during the week, when she's at daycare, the most obvious potential reason is that she's reluctant to go to daycare. Any insight from her caregivers there?
posted by palliser at 1:09 PM on March 17, 2010

on days when she gets up on time she gets to eat a breakfast she likes more, wear socks/shoes/clothes she likes more, or gets 15 minutes of cartoons. the days where she makes you fight her she gets a breakfast that still feeds her, but that is boring, clothes that make-do but aren't exceptionally cute, and no cartoons (or whatever reward/lack of reward you want to bestow).

4 1/2 is certainly young, but not too young to discuss it with her. in the middle of the week, after work/daycare - have a busy hands activity (like cooking) and ask her "little leahwren, why don't you like getting out of bed during the week?" - you might have to have this conversation a few different times and a few different ways - but if you try to have it when you're not frustrated - she'll probably tell you.

although, absent of any cause (doesn't like a teacher, bored at school, etc) i agree that it's probably just testing authority and liking the attention she receives when she does. if this is the case, my first suggestion about offering a carrot for waking up on time and a denial of said carrot for sleeping in stands - you get to all but ignore her bad behavior and give her attention for her good behavior.
posted by nadawi at 1:15 PM on March 17, 2010

Been a while since my kids were 4 but I remember the best way to get them up and ready for day care was to put their clothes in the dryer for, like, five minutes. They loved hopping into warm clothes ... would sprint to hop into warm clothes ... and the longer they waited, the less warm and snuggly they got.

Oh, and I'm with slap factory ... pop tarts with icing, real ones.
posted by lpsguy at 1:23 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know it's kind of counterintuitive, but maybe try starting to wake her a little earlier (like 20 minutes earlier than what you do now)? If she likes to stay in bed for twenty minutes before she gets up, give her time to do it. If she's a slow riser, this lets her wake up at her leisure. If she's testing you, this is a consequence.

Nthing check out the daycare. Also, possible health/ sleep issue?
posted by _cave at 1:26 PM on March 17, 2010

This may sound crazy, but have you tried putting her to bed a bit later? Around 4/5, my kids were waking up at 5 and 6 after being in bed since 7 the night before, and then going *back* to sleep because it wasn't time to be up yet. Then, when it was time to get up, they were crabby. What happens if you put her to bed at 8?
posted by headspace at 1:29 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My son takes a shower in the morning... i indulge him a little and let him stand there under the water for a few minutes (low flow shower head), but it sure wakes him up.
nthing extra time as well.
FYI he's 5 now, and we've been in this routine for 3+ yrs...he goes to bed around 9, up at 7.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:32 PM on March 17, 2010

I have a son who will be a great political activist some day. He's got the whole "non-violent protest" thing down pat. He (daily - this has gone on for years, he's 3 1/2) refuses to get out of bed, get dressed, or assist in the process in any way. When I try to move him, he goes all limp and heavy and becomes a dead weight, almost impossible to move (he's 46 lbs).

Best and most useful advise I've gotten:

+ Start the day with snuggles. We do a sort of modified co-sleep thing with him anyhow, but the day goes better if he wakes up with hugs and kisses and me snuggled up in bed next to him, rather than me pulling him out of bed.

+ I read him a story (in bed, snuggled up) as a start to our day. Then I talk to him about things for a few minutes - what did he dream about? what the weather is today. the plan for the day. How much I love him. Stuff like that. Time for this is budgeted into our morning routine. Its not unusual for me to start reading when he's still "asleep", but once he hears me start the story he often perks up.

+ Then its time to get up.

+ Its not unusual for me to let him sleep in sweatpants and a tee shirt and for me to send him to daycare with a bag of clothes for the day (I understand this won't work with most day cares). Or, some days I'll dress a particular bear in the clothes he's supposed to wear for the day, which leads to lots of "no, no, those are MY clothes" sorts of laughing protests. Then he'll undress himself and let me dress him without a fuss.

+ Our routine involves breakfast in the car (he gets a Z-bar and some juice, he also gets "real" breakfast at Daycare about an hour after we arrive), so if he's hungry the idea that "you can eat as soon as you get dressed" can be a powerful motivator.

Do you think this could be related to the time-change in any way? Or has her sleep been disturbed more than usual? Bad dreams or loud noises keeping her awake in the night?

My sense is that my son's refusal to get up is a combination of three things:
1) Its an attention getting tactic. In our house, because of the way our lives are, my best solution was to provide the positive attention, but in a way where I still had control of the process.
2) Its something he can control. Little kids have so little control over their lives; its not unusual for them to try to exert enormous amounts of control over the things they can actually control.
3) My guy is genuinely not a morning person. He just plain hates getting out of bed.

Good luck; Always remember - kids are weird.
posted by anastasiav at 1:33 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

A friend of mine has a 5-year-old who flips out if she says, "It's time to go now" but is dramatically calmer if she says, "We're leaving in five minutes" and then, "Three minutes..." and so on.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2010

Add 20 minutes, and help her dress, have a nice cozy stress-free breakfast and leave in good time without haste. Makes all the difference.
(and yes: check whether there are acute issues that took away her motivation)
posted by Namlit at 1:48 PM on March 17, 2010

Sticker chart? She gets a sticker for getting out of bed with dignity, one for being ready to go on time. If a sticker alone isn't a good enough prize, after X number of stickers she gets Y toy or Z activity.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:52 PM on March 17, 2010

I'm guessing my dad's solution of a cold, wet washcloth thrown at the kid's head wouldn't really be seen as acceptable these days? It sure worked, though.
posted by scruss at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

scruss - in my family if the washcloth didn't work, a glass of ice water was used. once and only once (against my eldest brother) the pitcher of water was brought in.
posted by nadawi at 2:32 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having been 4 once, the situation will resolve itself by the time he graduates from college and/or gets a job. At least it did for me.

But, for a temporary fix, my father got us up with a loud booming "GET UP" and a bright light turned on or window being thrown open. He is a WW II vet and I am sure he learned this in the army. My mother's more subtle gentle way did not work very well.

48 years later, I still remember hopping out of bed and getting ready with no arguments for my dad, but a lot of whining for my mom.

BTW, I love my dad and he is a funny, gentle guy (and my primary caretaker when I was a young child), but when he told you to do something, you did it.
posted by fifilaru at 2:41 PM on March 17, 2010

My mom would start singing and tickling if I didn't get out of bed in a timely manner. I was extremely ticklish so it worked quite well.
posted by Kimberly at 3:16 PM on March 17, 2010

My 4.5 year old has been like this for quite some time. There are no issues at his daycare. He is happy, well adjusted, runs into his classroom skipping, but is crabby when he first wakes up. I am just like that too, I am sure he gets it from me. He also needs to eat as soon as he wakes up, increasing his blood sugar helps. I am another supporter of the pop tart or Eggo solution, currently chocolate chip pancakes are what works.
I also think kids sense the adult stress of trying to get everyone ready and out the door. On the weekends, we are not rushing and he sees and feels that around the house.
posted by peeps! at 4:22 PM on March 17, 2010

Maybe give her a gift of her own clock radio. She can set the radio station, turn the alarm on the night before, and get up on her own "like a big girl" to the sound of her own alarm. This helped make the morning routine slightly easier for my kids. It gives them the feeling of control. It also removes the parent from being the bad guy; the clock is now the one telling the child to get up. You can grump at Mommy/Daddy but you can't grump at a clock - well you can, but it doesn't have any effect.
posted by molasses at 5:30 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

My kids did the same thing and it was partially solved by moving their bedtimes later like headspace said. I don't know why, but it helped. (Now if I could get them to stop messing around once they're out of bed!)
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:56 PM on March 17, 2010

I think folks upthread were just playing the "you think your old man was a hardass?" game, but just to be clear, pouring icewater on a four-year-old would be fucked up.
posted by palliser at 11:38 AM on March 18, 2010

My mother would slowly rub my face with a cold wet washcloth whenever I refused to get out of bed. I hated it so much that the mere sound of the water running would get me up.

If she is like I was as a small child, enticing her with the things she likes won't work, and she won't be impressed with rewards. The only thing that worked with me was physical discomfort (bright light, wet washcloth, pulling off the blanket, etc.).
posted by crankylex at 12:24 PM on March 18, 2010

palliser - i think the seemingly good mom that is the OP is able to realize that me and the other commenter were sharing stories. and while i don't think this situation warrants it - a glass of water being thrown on a kid isn't "fucked up". it really depends on the family and the level of general pranks/humor - but i think i was about that age when the run into the bathroom when someone is showering and throw cold water on them games started. i've got a lot of screwed up shit in my childhood, but my parents, especially my father, was in no way abusive or "fucked up" with his kids.
posted by nadawi at 12:54 PM on March 18, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Some good options to try.

I'm pretty sure (based on what Ilana reports) that it's not that she doesn't want to go to daycare: she seems happy to go and kind of disappointed on the weekends when she doesn't get to go. She is big on testing in all other aspects of her life, so this is probably more of the same, coupled with problems with the change in light. (This is our first spring in Alaska, so it's being a more dramatic change than in previous years---and the time change didn't help. But we installed thick curtains last night, so maybe that will help.)

She shares a room with her sister, so we may try having Ilana get to go to bed a little later than her sister and see what happens (although this is way counterintuitive!).
posted by leahwrenn at 1:48 PM on March 18, 2010

it's not really counter-intuitive. how do you feel if you've had 2 hours too much sleep? for me, i'm groggy, listless, feel like i can sleep the day away, and sore.
posted by nadawi at 1:54 PM on March 18, 2010

I don't know if this will help, but when I was little, in the early mornings, my parents would play a bhajan and chatter and laugh and dishes would rustle and I would want to be where everybody else was. But the rock song isn't helping. I would say laugh and sound like you're having so much fun, and she'll come naturally, wanting to be part of the fun.
posted by anniecat at 2:29 PM on March 18, 2010

and while i don't think this situation warrants it - a glass of water being thrown on a kid isn't "fucked up".

For a half-awake four-year-old in bed, it is. I think it's common for people on AskMe who are remembering their childhoods, rather than relating their own parenting experiences, to think you were "about that age," when in fact you were 8 or 9 or some other, older age, when certain family practices started.
posted by palliser at 5:47 PM on March 18, 2010

palliser - my family moved every single year, thus my age memories are tied to a specific house. it's rather difficult for me to be off by more than a year. thanks for questioning my memory with zero proof, though!
posted by nadawi at 5:53 PM on March 18, 2010

My observation is based on the general difficulty among very small children themselves in reliable recollection -- they're suggestible and have some trouble telling between fantasy and reality -- which then contributes to a difficulty, in adulthood, with remembering exactly what happened to you when you were four. Or thinking that what happened to a sibling actually happened to you (my sister and I have this confusion all the time). I don't think I need "proof" to state that it's "common" for a memory of one's four-year-old self to be flawed, which is all I did say.

But then again, of course this may have happened to you when you were four years old, in which case I maintain that it is fucked up and I'm sorry anyone did that to you when you were four. You can go back to taking offense at that, if you'd like, rather than at the alternate possibility I offered that you're remembering wrong.
posted by palliser at 7:32 PM on March 18, 2010

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