- Put the kids to bed earlier at night. I know, this sounds like one of those cop-out lines, but really, one of the best things you can do is make sure the time your child needs to get up and the time he’d naturally get up are as close to the same as possible. School age kids generally need 10-11 hours of shut-eye per night, so determine what time he needs to wake up and work backwards to figure out his ideal bedtime.
- Make “lights out” time mean sleep time. You can’t force anyone to fall asleep, but you can minimize distractions so that sleep is more likely. Although lights out for my daughter is 8:30, she needs to be ready for bed—in pajamas, teeth brushed, gone to the bathroom, etc.—by 8:00 or so. Then she gets to read on her Nook in whatever time she has left. At 8:30, I take the Nook out of the room, kiss her good night, shoo the cat out (my daughter’s been known to play with her furry friend for almost an hour after lights out if I don’t!), close the door, and that’s that. Figure out what the distractions are for your kid and remove them. If your child likes to pop out of bed 20 times after lights out, try the “I’ll be right back” method.
- Be her snooze button. If, despite your best efforts, your child is still groggy in the morning, wake her up five minutes before you need to. Ask her, “Do you want to get up now or in five minutes?” (I like to ask questions that make her answer, since each time she has to talk wakes her up a little more.) She’ll likely say the latter, at which point, tell her, “That’s fine, but then there can’t be any arguments in five minutes. Ok?” (Again, make sure she answers.) If she agrees, set a timer in her room. When it goes off, tell her it’s time to get up. If she argues, don’t give her the five-minute luxury the next day, and tell her why. Try it again a few days later to see if she’s learned her lesson.
- Freeze lunches beforehand. I learned this trick from a teacher friend who has five school lunches to make. Every Sunday, she makes sandwiches for the week and freezes them each in tin foil so that in the morning, she just has to pop them into lunchboxes that each child prepares the night before with drink, snack, and fruit. Peanut butter and jelly freeze particularly well, and so do cold cuts, though if you want to add fix-ins (lettuce, tomato, etc.), you’ll have to do that in the a.m.
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