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In the morning I have to wrestle my six-year old girl to get her to remove her Doona (Duvet/Comforter/Quilt). Then I have to wrestle her to get her up and get her clothes on.

I feel like she should get up and dress herself. (My wife and I have to go to work).

My question is What techniques can I use to get my six-year-old out of bed and dressed for school?

  • How long has she been going to school, have their been any major changes in her behavior and what has your morning routine been like for the past 2-3 years? Without that context it's hard to guess at the causes of her resistance or any solutions. – Cyrus May 17 '16 at 14:42
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The first thing I'd do is figure out whether she's having trouble getting out of bed because she's too tired. Most kids I've known fall into one of two camps: the ones that wake up on their own and are bright and chippy nearly right away, usually too much so for the parents; and the ones who don't wake up on their own, have to be woken up, and are very challenging to help get ready in the morning.

If she's in the second group, then she may not be getting enough sleep. Is it possible to move to a slightly earlier bedtime? Even a half hour might be enough. Or, is it possible her sleep is not sufficiently good quality? A better mattress, a change in temperature (too warm or too cold are both bad for sleep), or a white noise machine to help cover noises (particularly if you're on a street that has some traffic but not enough to become white noise itself) all may help.

This is particularly likely if she wakes up much better on days where she can get up at her leisure (on a weekend, perhaps). If she's not getting enough sleep, then it's not terribly surprising she has trouble getting up and getting moving. I certainly have trouble getting up and moving when I've not slept enough, and I've had decades to practice.

If you can't really fix the sleepiness, you can try what we do. My oldest in particular can't go to bed earlier than he does; his circadian rhythm is just wrong for a normal school schedule, so he's inevitably tired in the mornings. During the winter in particular, we wake him up in stages. Begin waking him up at 6:30 or so - light on in the room, a few words to help him stir. Then 6:45 after I've showered I give him another go. Then, again at 7 a third time, now we usually get him awake, and capable of dressing himself and getting up - particularly with the promise of breakfast downstairs. Waking up in stages is much easier for most people of any age; that way, she's not coming out of a deep sleep and instantly expected to be awake.

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As with so many "resistance" problems, the answer, hard as it may be for parents to go with, is "natural consequences". In this case, she goes to school in her pajamas and Doona. (Just tell the teacher what's up.)

ETA a rationale and a caveat:

Caveat: make sure it is actually just resistance (power play) and not a genuine fear to something bad/hidden going on at school (bullying?).

Rationale: make it totally her problem, not yours (don't ever tell her "I have to get to work!"); and no drama, no threats, no warnings; just matter-of-fact "ok this is what we're going to do today then; I can carry you to the car or you can walk". It will get her attention.

  • I've heard the send them to school in their PJs idea before but I've never had someone say that they did it and XYZ happened to solve their issue. Has anyone out there tried this with success? Or failure for that matter? – user7678 May 17 '16 at 16:10
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    @RachelC in our kindergarten (age 3-6) there have been a few instances where kids arrived in their pj's during the years mine attended. It was an excellent move not only for the child in question, but also for those observing it or - in the case of much younger siblings - just being told the tale. That ours was a forest kindergarten certainly intensified the lecture. – Stephie May 17 '16 at 19:24
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    I have told me kid ONCE that I could take him to school in PJs, and since he could hear I meant it, he dresses himself. I never had to do it. I also use the trick to get him to put on shoes - I ONCE had to carry him and his shoes to the car since he didn't do it, and he now puts shoes on. – Ida May 17 '16 at 20:19
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The “Checklist” strategy worked very well for us. For my 7-year-old, we created a few checklists including the following items:

  • Items to do every morning until she is ready for school
  • Items to do when she is back from school
  • Items to do before going to bed I ask her to create the checklist with her handwriting.

If she cannot write YET visual stickers or labels help or you can create/print fancy checklists with MS Word and drawing found on google image search.

She scores herself every day on the checklists and upon high score achievement, she gets nice prizes (that might even include sugary stuff too :) ) . During the 1st week, you need to be patient. After a month, you will be surprised how well you are able to implement good habits. Depend on the child or age; you can retire each checklist after ~two months!

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