The alarm goes off and the morning battle begins: you knock on your child’s bedroom door to wake him, but you have to go back time and again to make sure he’s actually up, your voice rising with each “wake-up call.” As the minutes tick by and he still hasn’t gotten out of bed, you resort to screaming and yelling in his face, and then tear the blankets off the bed.

In desperation, you pull him out of bed by his feet, though you know you won’t be able to do that for many more years. A screaming match ensues, and now your child has missed the bus, so you have to take him to school. You’ll be late for work again, and you feel your blood pressure rising with every traffic light. Finally, your child slams the door of your car, and you head to work, agitated and upset, sure that your boss will make a comment again today about your lateness.

“As long as you take responsibility for getting your child out of bed, they will let you do it.”

If you find yourself bending over backwards to get your child going in the morning, you’re not alone. During parent coaching sessions, many parents tell me they set their own alarms an hour or more in advance in order to start the process of waking up their child. In many cases, consequences and punishments seem to have no effect.

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need an average of nine hours of sleep per night. Biological sleep patterns during adolescence make it difficult for teens to get to sleep before 11 pm, and nearly impossible to wake up in time to catch the bus or make it to homeroom on time. What that means is that when your child has to get up early to get to school, he or she is working against a biological drive to sleep. But just because a kid’s biology doesn’t match up with the demands of the outside world, it doesn’t mean that you have to surrender to the daily insanity of getting your kids up and out of the house.

The Good News: You Can Stop Working So Hard

The Total Transformation Program tells parents to stop taking responsibility for getting their kids out of bed on time. If you repeatedly bang on your child’s door to get them up, or you drag them out of bed, you are working harder to wake up your child than they are. As James Lehman says, “You are substituting your extra energy and effort for your child’s.” So if you think about it, why should your child get up on their own when you are willing to do it for them? If they know they don’t really have to get up until mom threatens to bring the ice water, why should they get up at the first ring of the alarm? Ten more minutes is ten more minutes, right?

Start by Setting New Ground Rules

In order to get your child to adhere to the morning routine, you need to give them the responsibility for getting up. Sit down with your child and have a discussion about getting up in the morning. You might say, “You and I have a hard time in the morning. I am no longer going to be responsible for getting you up on time. I will give you one wake up call, and then it’s up to you. If you miss the bus, I will not drive you to school. You will need to either find another way to get there, or you will need to call your teachers to get your assignments.”

This solution may not work for all families. Your child may be too young to leave at home while you’re at work; walking to school might not be an option. You’ll need to customize the consequences and expectations to your own family situation. If you do have to drive them to school because they overslept, maybe the consequence is that they have to do an hour of chores to make up for the time you lost.

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The important thing to realize is that as long as you take responsibility for getting your child out of bed, they will let you do it.  It may take a few days for them to get the hint, but once you stop working so hard, they will realize they have to change their behavior, or face certain consequences. A natural consequence for oversleeping and being late to school is having to make up any schoolwork that was missed. You might also check with your school to see what the policy is for repeated tardiness or missed classes. Don’t protect your child from these consequences by making sure they make that bus on time. In order to create less dramatic mornings, you have to let your child experience the consequences of not getting themselves up and out the door.

Make Sleep a Priority

The Total Transformation also recommends that parents institute an earlier bedtime. You might tell your child: “You seem to have a hard time getting up in the morning, which tells me you aren’t getting enough sleep. You need to be up by 7 am on school days. As of today, we are moving your bedtime back to 10 pm on school nights. Once you have shown us that you can get up on time for five days in a row, we’d be happy to move your bedtime back to 11 pm.” If your child does not get up on time, simply state: “I know you want a later bedtime. You’ll have to figure out how to get yourself up on time in order to have that privilege.”

Because of the biological drives I mentioned earlier, it may be hard for your adolescent to go to sleep before 11 p.m. Going to bed by 10 is going to be a little “uncomfortable” for your child. In time, the discomfort and annoyance of having to get into bed with the lights out and no electronics may motivate him or her to get out of bed on time in the morning. Once your child has gotten up on their own for five days in a row, you can change their bedtime to a later hour. If they begin to oversleep again, change it back to 10 pm until they improve.

Help your Child Problem-Solve their Way to a Better Morning Routine

What if your child doesn’t know how to help themselves get up in the morning? Remember, teens and pre-teens are fighting against a physiological drive that tells them to sleep later than many school start times. In order to change their behavior, they need a plan, not just wishful thinking.

If your child has a hard time getting up, have them come up with a list of things they will do to help themselves get out of bed on time. Changing to an earlier bedtime may help. Putting the alarm clock across the room, instead of next to the bed, may also help. Have your child pack their school lunch, pick out their clothes and organize their backpack the night before so that they don’t have to do it in the morning. Remember to put the responsibility for getting up in the morning on your child. If you do it all for them, they have no reason to do it themselves.

Empowering Parents parent coaching helps with these and other challenges you’re experiencing with your child. Empowering Parents Coaches have helped hundreds of parents customize a plan of action to help your child take responsibility for their morning routine, and we can help you, too. Specialists can also work with you to formulate realistic, appropriate consequences to help enforce the new morning routine. Whatever action you choose, be sure to stick with it. Calmer mornings are within your reach.

About

Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, former Empowering Parents Parent Coach, speaker and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at refugeingrief.com, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

Comments (15)
  • Mom of Teen Son
    My son is in 11th grade and taking some college courses while in high school. This is his choice because he is hoping to spend less time in college after graduating. He really wants to graduate with all honors so he's really dedicated to his education. Unfortunately, he never getsMore enough sleep and struggles with getting up every morning. I've gone through the yelling and lecturing with him and even let him flat out miss school from not getting out of bed. I recently bought him a shock watch but he simply lets it shock him and then goes back to sleep. He is frustrated at his fatigue but the urge to sleep is so strong so he gives into it. He sleeps every time he's in the car, on the bus, and anywhere that doesn't require his attention. I've tried helping him manage his time better so that he can get the hours of sleep he needs each night but he insists that he needs at least a few hours of down time after school before diving into his homework that keeps him up past midnight. I totally understand his need to set aside school so I don't give him a hard time about taking breaks. I also let him sleep as late as he wants on the weekends, which means he sometimes doesn't get up until mid-afternoon. One school morning, I dragged him out of bed and he was so sleepy that he walked into a wall, slamming his face right into it, and fell on the floor, completely unable to catch himself because of how out of it he was. I took him to the ER but, of course, there was nothing wrong with him and they told him to get more sleep. I'm really worried about what his college life will be like because he currently doesn't have to work but he will have to juggle college with a job after high school. I don't want to see him finally give up in frustration and drop out. He's so smart and such a level headed kid. I'm thinking that if there was something to look forward to in the morning that would make him want to get out of bed rather than being faced with the start of another hard day that it might make it easier for him in the mornings.
    • Mags
      I also have an 11th grader who struggles horribly to get up in the morning. Although he is a normal weight I actually had him tested for sleep apnea (it took 9 months to get in!). The dr. did order an overnight study for him and itMore did show sleep apnea. It has also been a mighty struggle to get my teen to actually use the CPAP machine to treat it.... There is a history of sleep apnea in our family and the dr. noted that my teen’s airway looked classic for apnea ( narrow, smaller).
  • DeDe
    My son is 7 and it's a screaming match every morning. What sort of consiquences are safe for a 7yr old. All he needs to do is get up and dressed in the clothes I set out for him and eat the breakfast I have set out for him. IMore work and there is no bus so I need him to do this in a timely fashion. I'm in tears most mornings after much escalated screaming battles.
    • RebeccaW, Parent Coach
      Mornings can be such a struggle for most families, so you are not alone. It can be so challenging when your child refuses to comply, even though you are doing everything in your control to make this process easy for him. It’s difficult to say what might beMore an effective consequence for your son, as each child is different in terms of what might motivate them. You might find some ideas for appropriate consequences and rewards in “Which Consequence Should I Give My Child?” How to Create a List of Consequences for Children. I also encourage you to keep in mind that consequences alone do not tend to change behavior in a meaningful, long-term way. For more assistance with your morning routine, be sure to check out “Our Morning Routine Isn’t Working”— 6 Ways to Fix It Now. Please be sure to let us know if you have additional questions. Take care.
  • MollyHankwitz

    We had this issue over the summer. Our teen wanted to stay up late online and to wake up whenever he wanted regardless. I did not want to struggle as hard as I was so I let him do it but felt cranky and discontent because it disappointed me that that was all he wanted to do. St the same time he had had a surgery in Jan and a difficult time so he needed lots and lots of sleep. However, we resented his having this much control in our lives. It meant the house was under his schedule not ours and that we had to beg for his participation. Curiously when at the end of the summer when he returned to school he became super responsible and got up every day by 5:15. I was happily impressed and thought about how much I had worried about him not being able to get up. Over the winter break, however, I made the rule and stuck with it that he needed to rise by 9:30. I told him I did not care what he did with his day but that he had to get out of bed by 9-9:30. He also had to get out of the house for a walk or fresh air once a day. And this worked really really well. The deal was cut over gaming. Each day was separate. Loss of opportunity to game came on same day as not getting up or giving me any resistance. After that…new day…I don’t think he missed once! It was such a relief for us and he successfully tied playing games with two healthy goals.

    • Colleen
      How did you cutback on the gaming? My Son bought his own computer a couple years ago and the online gaming at night got so bad that now he's dropped out of school (he just turned 18 in February ).
  • GeetanjaliKumar
    Calmer mornings is a requirement for all the parents. Sometimes I myself get late and I am rushing badly.I liked the idea that a child should be put to bed an hour before so that he or she can get up himself or herself.
  • AshleyAnnBendigo
    Yeah this advice is silly. If you have a child who can't..... And I mean CANT wake up easily this may be a problem that follows them thier entire lives:( I have an internal alarm clock always have but my teenage son doesn't. If I left itMore to him he would wake up naturally at 11:00 and go... OMG!! Then his future would be risk. Leaving it up to them implys that there not waking up is a choice.... I am not so sure. I do worry though when mommy is not around, then what! My son finished school and after school activities at 7:30pm then it's 1-2 hours of homework and of course dinner. So bedtime is ... Approx 10:30-11:00 then up at 5:45am for breakfast and school by 7:00! So it's 6.5 hours of sleep for my son. The only way to help this process is to begin school at 9:00 and let them out by 4:00. After school activities should last only until 5:00 that gives children the chance to go home work on schoolwork eat dinner and have a few moments to themselves before bed. But what do I know?
    • mom of three3
      I agree 100% it ridiculous how much pressure is packed down on kids today. Some days my 13 year old sons are so overwhelmed by the idea of their day they want to give up before it starts. Which also plays a factor into why they do not want toMore get out of bed. I am a psych minor majoring in healthcare and a horrible speller;) the info we learned in all those classes is that it is actually detrimental to a child's growth and development (mental and physical ) to allow them so little sleep. So what is a mom to do? My sons can not miss the first two classes of the day everyday, they want the oppertunity to play sports and hang out with friends, they like to watch a movie and play games now and again...so 6.5 hours of sleep is what Iis left after all of their responsibilities and free time has commenced. The next day comes and we start the day with a struggle once again and do it again and again. I can not allow them to wake up on their own, they would miss out and not because they want to or their being naughty but because their tired and life expects too much of them. Our mornings are a struggle but not a screaming match... it's what I will do to help them through k-12 bootcamp.
  • Frustrated mom
    None of this works for my 15 year old. I've tried all of this and more. Nothing works. Missing school because I give it one shot and then it's up to her is not a consideration. She'd be expelled and I'd have the truancy officer knockingMore on my door. Taking away privileges and earlier bed times do not work. So if someone has advice that actually works I would love to hear it.
  • SherryB
    My grandson, 14 yrs, has always and still is difficulty to wake.  I have tried everything from loud noises, banging on his door, pulling covers off, pouring cold water to just threats.  Nothing worked. Until Recently I told him that he would need to go to bed an half hourMore earlier this week to help him rise on time. which means electronoc off earlier, bath time earlier, TV off earlier.  If the half hour did not work then the next week will be 1 hour earlier to bed and so on, and  so forth..  I still bang on his door and turn the TV very loud, but he wakes and now and he gets up.  I have not had to go the distance of 1 hour earlier for bed time., not yet anyway
  • cheryllynntaylorpotts
    I have my granddaughter and two grandsons the boys get up as soon has I say their names but my granddaughter she is in second grader she gets straight A's helps do anything but when it come to getting her up in the morning it is pure hell what canMore I do to get her up and not fight to get her awake, I tried going to bed earlier getting up earlier did. Not help what do you suggest I do now, Getting Real Tired
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      cheryllynntaylorpotts

      I understand where you’re coming

      from. It can be exhausting to fight with your child every morning trying to get

      her out of bed and on her way to school. One thing that could be productive is

      developing a behavior chart or incentive plan that’s linked to your granddaughter getting up and

      going to school in the morning. This could be accomplished a few different

      ways. For instance, you could link one of her daily privileges, like watching

      TV, going outside after school, or another daily activity she enjoys to her

      meeting this expectation. If she gets up and goes to school, she earns the

      privilege that day. If she doesn’t, then she wouldn’t earn it that day but

      would have another opportunity to earn it the following day. You could also use

      a behavior chart. We have a great article that explains how to use behavior

      charts effectively. It also has templates for behavior charts you can download

      and print off. You can find a link to that article here: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/free-downloadables-child-behavior-charts-how-to-use-them-effectively/. I hope

      you find this information helpful for your situation. Take care.

      • JMMom
        My 16 year old daughter actually likes school, hates being late, hates having missed assignments from being late, the school consequences of being late, the consequences at home of being late, BUT still can't seem to bring herself to get up on time and get around and get to schoolMore on time. It just seems to snowball into worse and worse. Her frustration level goes up, her confidence level goes down. She wants to achieve this but it's next to Impossible. What other options can we have to try? Need help!
        • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
          JMMom Thank you for writing in.  It’s actually a positive sign that your daughter is motivated to change her behavior because she is uncomfortable with her continued tardiness.  At this point, it might be useful to have a https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/the-surprising-reason-for-bad-child-behavior-i-cant-solve-problems/ with your daughter about specific steps she can take to getMore herself up and to school on time each day.  You might also find it helpful to use one of our https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/4-steps-to-changing-child-behaviorwith-free-how-to-download/ to outline these steps, and to keep her on track.  Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your daughter.  Take care.
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