I want to start first with the waking up routine, because obviously it comes first in the day. I remember my mother waltzing inside the room each morning singing to my siblings and myself a song she made up for us to wake up. Today I am convinced that she wanted to make this task as lively as possible, but inside she was hoping for us to get ready and spare us the hassle. But, we always gave her a rough time. And let us be real; most adults face some difficulty to wake up and get kick started. The prospect of the day ahead can leave us slightly dreadful, thus perpetuating that keen wish to return to bed a little longer. With kids, the idea of going to school can have a similar effect. However, there is hope with children. I am sure this comes as no surprise, but children love to play. Injecting some play in this routine may facilitate this “chore” and make it livelier. In one of my coaching programs, I came across a very interesting technique a mother used. This resembled to a great extent a circuit race. The child had a chart with four tasks to do; washing teeth, doing the bed, getting dressed and eating breakfast. The mother intelligently agreed with her son to use his favourite action figure to represent him on the chart. As the child finished one of the tasks he was to take the action figure and pin it on the next task. At the end of the task there was a whole celebration with his mother over breakfast. The laughs and giggles were marvellous.

Now, I am certain that some of you readers are thinking that this may not work with their kids. And probably they are right. Some children require a different form of play to get started. Some may need to be accompanied by their favourite toy as they go to the bathroom or as they get dressed up for school. Whatever games you choose for your child make sure it is effective. And the best confirmation of this is the giggles. If the child is having fun then it is more likely to work.

You must be careful however because you do not want this routine to turn into a game where the child engages in taunting play aimed at prolonging the time of contact with you. Be sure that this will increase your anxiety. In my opinion, any morning routine should follow these cardinal rules:

  • Be Assertive. This game has a purpose and you should focus on the goal.
  • Do not engage in any other goal other than that of the game. If you concede to the child’s intent to change the game to be more of a connection game, it will defeat the purpose and you will become frustrated.
  • Use visual aids. Helping the child see his accomplishments step-by-step helps him to be cognizant of his moving forward across his expectations.
  • Celebrate happily each day. The child is more likely to comply with the game if he perceives the end result of completing the game as something he wants.
  • Be clear. Tell your child clearly what you want him to do. This is not a time to negotiate. Children require clear expectations to be able to thrive.


– Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness.  He offers parent coaching and social work sessions.  He can be contacted on steve@willingness.com.mt