Dealing with morning meltdown

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Trying to get the kids ready for school, be it nursery or reception class. I’ve got m ready, she’s not yet two so is still relatively easy to get into clothes whether she likes it or not. But M who’s recently turned four is a different prospect and sometimes it ends in a meltdown (for both of you).

You start telling her it’s time to get dressed. She comes in from playing with her toys, takes off her PJ bottoms, puts pants on then spends the next 20mins running around carrying her vest not making any actual progress in getting dressed. In the meantime I’ve got the bags ready, m is ready, we’re all ready to go:

“Will you please put your clothes on!”

“But I need heeeellpppp”

“Ok, here, I’ll help”

“NO, I can do it myself!”

“Will you please get dressed!!, Ok we’ll see you in the car”


“Will you please get dressed!”

And so on, until one of you (usually me) loses the plot.

So how do you avoid this escalation?

Well I borrowed the following from this book “Divas & Dictators, the secrets to having a much better behaved child“, it has proven itself on a number of occasions.

So how could I have avoided the confrontation around the morning routine:

Make a plan

Sit down the night before or when you finally have a moment and think about the problem. Think about the following things:

  • What is the behaviour I want to stop? – Be specific, if there are lots of things, start with the one you think is easiest to change.
  • How much of the behaviour can I safely ignore? – Often simply ignoring the behaviour will make it disappear.
  • What would I like to see instead? – Be precise and more importantly, realistic.
  • Look at other factors that might be contributing to the problem? – Are they tired, hungry or thirsty?
  • What reward could I use when I see the right behaviour? – don’t confuse a bribe with a reward (for clarity a reward is something that is given when the child does something positive that was agreed on in advance).
  • What sanction could I use if things go wrong?

So I took some time to think about the above and how I could get M dressed so we can get out the door on time. Then when I had made my plan it was time to teach it to M.

The following morning after we had got up and I had given the girls their breakfast. I got down to M’s level and asked her to listen to me. I told her calmly and carefully:

“Ok darling, we don’t want to have another morning like yesterday when Daddy got angry”

“No Daddy”

“So while I get yours and m’s things ready, you can play but as soon as I say it’s time to get dressed, you must come to me start getting dressed”

“Yes Daddy”

“If you get dressed on time and we are ready before 8:15” (this is my notional cut off point for both girls to be dressed and ready) “you’ll get lots of ticks on the reward chart, and there will be more pocket money at the end of the week. But if you mess around and are not ready on time, no ticks, no pocket money”

“Yes Daddy, I want to get lots of ticks”

“Great, now off you go”

It worked. I was calm and when I had all their things ready, I asked M to come and get dressed and she did. I praised her along the way (this is important) that she was getting ready really well and helping Daddy lots while he gets m ready.

Then she came with me to the kitchen while I put lots of ticks on her reward chart. PHEW!

I’m certain we shall no doubt have more days when things go wrong, but hey, that’s parenting.

How do you manage bad behaviour/achieve your desired result with your children? I’d love to hear.


Since writing this post I’ve tried a different approach to the morning routine. We spoke to M and suggested that we get her dressed after she gets up and before breakfast. This gave her responsibility for the decision and she was up for it.

Four days into the new routine and mornings have transformed. With M already dressed before breakfast then there’s less stress for me to get her in her clothes and off to nursery. She now has time to have a little play after breakfast while I finish getting things ready, all of us are happy. In fact, this week we have consistently got out of the house at least 10-15 mins earlier than normal. Result!

The downside is the risk of getting porridge on her clothes, but it’s a small price to pay for my sanity and no meltdowns.

6 Replies to “Dealing with morning meltdown”

  1. Great ideas, and I am totally empathising here with you. The difference between a bribe and a reward that you brilliantly describe makes all the difference. And getting down to their level. Let’s hope this continues! #ThatFridayLinky

    1. Thanks Jo, yes sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but it’s a learning curve for all of us isn’t it. I’m going to change the routine soon so they get dressed as soon as they get out of bed. That way hopefully we shall avoid me getting stressed about being ready to go after breakfast. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Ok so I’m trying this in the morning, it had better work haha! Seriously this is me every morning but with twins love the post Thanks for linking to #Thatfridaylinky hope to see you next week

  3. This sounded so familiar, I have two ‘teens’ 14 and 12 yrs, the 12 yr is diagnosed autistic and morning routines are…stressful, the 14 yr old is currently undergoing assessments for autism (oh good, buy one, get one free!) so as you can imagine life is fun here. These are great tips for all parents and lots of transferable info. Do I have any tips? Keep your cool and sit in the loo for the odd 5 mins to regroup. Oh, and COFFEE lots of coffee!

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