Do you have a hard time getting up in the mornings? Parents and kids can struggle on the cold winter days with bad moods. When you are in a bad mood is it hard to shake? What about your child? Are bad moods making it hard for them to get up and do what they need to? We can all relate to this week’s parent question:

“My son is in a grumpy mood in the morning that he just can’t shake. What can I do to help make mornings go better?”

In the winter when it’s dark and cold, no one really wants to leap out of bed. It can be a bad start to the day and put us in a bad mood. As parents we also have the job of teaching our children that even when we are in a bad mood we all have to do things we don’t like. How do we encourage our kids to get up, even when they don’t want to? Old school responses include telling them to “suck it up” or to “get with the program.” This might be a hope to squash the bad mood out of them. It’s more likely to just squash the relationship. A softer approach to fixing the mood might be to coax them out of their bad mood. It could be to bribe them with something nice for breakfast. This is likely to make us look weak and feel guilty that we have to do this. We have all been there – both strategies can end in tears. Let’s imagine how our child is feeling and think about how a typical morning sounds:

Mum : “Jack, it’s time to get up.”

Jack : “I don’t want to go to school. I hate it.”

Mum : “Don’t be silly. It’s time to get up and get your uniform on. Hurry up or we’ll be late.”

Jack: (Starts to grumble loudly) “ I hate it. And it’s not fair. I never get to do what I want.”

Mum : Come on stop being silly now, what do you mean you never get to do what you want? Today is art and you LOVE art.

Jack: (Shouting and with tears in his eyes) “I REALLY don’t want to go to school! It’s stupid.” (Throws something at the corner or pushes brother)

Mum : (Feeling upset and stressed) “I don’t have time to listen to this right now. Just get ready and stop this nonsense.”

When faced with a refusal to get up parents typically respond this way. To our child it can sound like a dismissal of their feelings. This will only  add to his distress. Our already upset child is feeling even worse and we are getting more stressed by the minute. The clock is ticking and we have to get out the door…..on time!

One thing you definitely aren’t thinking about is your child’s temperament.

The sort of temperament your child has will be a key factor to working out how to help them through their struggle. This relates to our expectations of that particular child.

“Is it reasonable to expect my child who is sensitive and usually kind and generous, who also hates getting up on cold, dark mornings to WANT to get up and go to school with a smile on his face, thanking me that I am getting him up to get ready when it is still dark in the morning?”

Reframing our expectations of our child can help elicit a more understanding response from ourselves. When we see our child as being “difficult” or “hard work” it can have the opposite effect and elicit an angry or a frustrated response.

We’re also more likely to stay calm in the moment and to help our child, once they have processed the feelings that they are having in the moment. The first thing to do is to acknowledge powerful and unpleasant feelings our child is having. Here’s how a parent who has a reframed expectation of their child and who is thinking about the feelings driving that particular child’s behaviour would act.

Mum : “Jack, it’s time to get up.”

Jack : “I don’t want to go to school. I hate it.”

Mum : “Oh, you don’t want to go to school.”

Jack : (Still looks unhappy) “ I hate it. And it’s not fair. I never get to do what I want.”

Mum : “I bet you feel like it is hard getting out from underneath your warm duvet when it’s so cold and dark outside.”

Jack : (Still looks unhappy) Pulls duvet over head.

Mum : “Mmm. That looks warm and cosy in there.”

Jack : “I hate school.”

Mum : “School feels like it’s going on forever for you? I bet you wish it was the weekend and we could stay in our pj’s and make some pancakes for breakfast.”

Jack : (Silent now, frowning a bit).

Mum: “You wish you could have a break and it could be school holidays already? What could you do to make it easier to get up? “

Jack : “Maybe I could wear my fleece over my uniform and then I will be warmer.”

By accepting the feelings that our child is having in the moment and helping them find a way through we are being an emotion coach. We’re not a therapist or counsellor. Just a firm and loving parent who is there to help. We don’t have to resort to threats or punishment like an old schooler and we don’t have to bribe them and feel guilty about having to do that either.

We can’t take the uncomfortable reality of having to get up in the winter away but we can avoid adding to our child’s difficulty.

These skills have been tried and tested by many parents and once you’ve invested in them they last a lifetime. In my job as a parent coach have met parents who receive management training and they say. “I actually know a lot of this stuff from work – I am just not really in a habit of doing it out at home.”

Maybe applying a different mindset to our home life will help our kids to deal with these bad mood days. If you know someone who would benefit from this post – like and share! And, if you’d like to learn more ways you can respond effectively to your child or teen’s bad mood get in touch: AA getting up is hard


3 thoughts on “Getting up is hard to do | on cold, dark mornings

  1. Whenever my child shouts and says he/she doesn’t want to do this and that, and he/she doesn’t wanna go to school, I would immediately think, “If you only know how it is to be an adult!” Hahaha! For me, it is better to befriend your child and explain well other than be upset and have a Word War with him/her. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment. I totally agree a word war won’t help. Reacting to their emotion will add fuel to the fire. Showing empathy in the moment helps everyone stay calm.

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