The Battle

Now that school is back in full swing (our second week), the dreaded morning scuffle has also returned.

I was hoping a more streamlined ritual would fall into place, but alas it’s business as usual.

You see, I have one child who does everything he’s supposed to, when he’s supposed to do it. I have another child who couldn’t be bothered with the type of work and effort it takes to get to school on time.

It’s time to get up…..”I can’t”…….It’s time for breakfast…..”I’m busy”….Are you dressed…teeth brushed…hair combed….shoes on…..”no”.


It makes me crazy.  I feel like I’ve tried everything to help facilitate the morning madness but nothing seems to light a fire under his behind.

Funny thing is, he loves school and can’t wait to arrive.  He just doesn’t seem to understand why he should be in a hurry  This leaves him, as well as me frustrated beyond belief.

He gets plenty of sleep, bedtime is at 8:30 PM, his clothes are ready, backpack is packed. 

Anyone have any advice or solutions that worked for them because when we pulled up to school five minutes late this morning and he blurted out, “Why are we late”….my head almost exploded.

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  1. I totally empathize with you on child number 2! Gaby is the same exact way and it frustrates me to no end and makes mornings a tad unpleasant.

  2. Breakfast in the car on the way to school…lol hang in there mom!

  3. chinya 3

    Ah man! My little man is five and already he acts this way…is this what the next couple years is gonna be like??? OY VEY!

  4. Barbie with a T 4

    At least they aren’t both that way. I suppose you are just going to have to stay on his tail and keep after him incessantly until he gets tired of it and decides to hurry up and get things done. Good luck.

  5. Lynn 5

    We just started my oldest in Pre-K this year. So far, so good. He does everything like your 1st. I on the other hand as a child was like your 2nd. Hemming and hawing in the morning got old quick in my house due to the fact that if you missed the school bus my dad REFUSED to drive us to school (unless for a special occasion or testing) and the day ended in you doing all the hard labor of the house alongside my mother. I RARELY missed a day of school in my youth after the first day of that punishment. I say maybe give that a go since he loves school and all. If its important to him, he’ll come around. Keep us posted. Count to 10…

    My best, Lynn

  6. Jane 6

    I had the same situation at my house and was DETERMIED not to raise the type of person who, as an adult, is late for everything. My solution was to set the kitchen clock ahead 10 minutes. Worked for us.

  7. Mom24 7

    It’s simple, but it works. I’ve been through this with mys on. No amount of hurrying, yelling or cajoling could make a difference. The answer? Get him getting ready 15 minutes earlier, or 20, or whatever it takes. Poof! No more stress for either of us and he’s ready at his own pace in plenty of time for school.

  8. Cathy Tindle 8

    Personally I would just continue the same routine, but when it is time to leave for school take the one child that is ready and explain to the other child that it is not fair that he makes his brother late, so maybe next time he can hurry a little faster. I guess in the long run, there are consequences for ones actions.

  9. Kristy 9

    Hi Friend! Kyle was having the same problem. We started “Kyle’s Quest!” He has a list of things to do to be considered “ready for school.” He watches the clock and tries to get ready earlier than the day before. It really is working. If he gets ready with time to spare he gets to watch TV as a reward. (The TV is not on before that.) When we were not using this, he would go upstairs into Lego La La Land and would wind up rushing to get ready in two minutes before we had to bike to school. It was stressing him out because he also likes to be to school early. Try this, hopefully it will be succcessful for you too! Miss you sweetie! Give the Hooligans a squeeze for me!

  10. Tana 10

    Make him sleep in his clothes! J/K…but it can’t be that bad of an idea. I only have a 2 year old, but I am prior military so I am (usually) beyond prepared. I load the car in the morning before I wake him up with his lunch (he goes to daycare), the portable DVD player (in case he needs entertainment) a sippy cup, and since we have an hour drive he gets pancakes to eat in the car (made over the weekend and frozen-no syrup). So basically you have to hover over toddlers to do anything because you have to do it for them. So be prepped and be on his tail like a drill-sergeant for a few days and see how he likes it! LOL!

  11. Kris 11

    OK, this is really hard to do, but it works. It’s not convenient, either. Let him make himself late a few times, but do NOT let him make his brother late. This will involve leaving him home to finish getting ready and taking the brother to school and making a second trip. It’s embarrassing to go in to school late. Don’t get mad or yell, just inform him of the new rules. Give him the tools he needs…alarm clock, charts to check off the necessary things, etc. and leave the ball in his court. Believe me, you don’t want to be dealing with this in high school!

  12. Mary 12

    Sorry, I have none. I’ll just say hello and wish you a good day. Hugs.

  13. I can remember when I was but a wee tyke… If I was running late and was doing so consistently, my parents had no trouble threatening to simply leave me behind. It seems like it may be an effective tool since, according to your post, he actually enjoys going to school. Tell him if he’s not ready, his brother will get to go to school and he’ll be kept home with no TV etc. It worked for me…

  14. Becky 14

    I just get up much earlier and start earlier…. also, be willing to let somethings slip that are not as important….unmade bed, etc. I have one left at home, a jr. in high school and sorry to say, he is still chronically late… :-)

  15. This describes my two darlings perfectly. My daughter is the one who wouldn’t know the word hurry if it bit her in the behind and my son is always up and at ’em.
    I share your pain!

  16. Mary 16

    LOL – I raised three boys and nothing will ever change. I tried not to make it my problem, car leaves when the buzzer goes off, be in the car and ready to go. Who cares if he didn’t bruch hair teeth, whatever! My son went to boyscout camp and was dirty all week!

  17. OMG! I have the same kids! If you find out how to make it work…please, please, please let me know!!!

  18. Mags 18

    My oldest son was just like that and here is what I did. I married him off and now my daughter-in-law gets to deal with the frustration…lol. I’d like to tell you that they grow out it, but in my son’s case, he never did.

  19. Rachel 19

    Natural consequences…you go to school however you are when I’m ready to leave…pjs & no teeth brushing…okay…it will only happen a couple times before he realizes your serious. If he doesn’t care if he goes that way, let him go…his friends will sort him out!

  20. Egghead 20

    Oh the days of frustration. I am with setting the clocks ahead by 10 minutes. Works for lazy farmers as well but only if they don’t catch on.

  21. Julie 21

    Glad you asked this so I could read all the responses. My kids both think it’s fun to play video/computer games when they’re supposed to be getting ready. Um, NO!

  22. leslie 22

    Ohh Cathy, I wish I had advice for you!
    I am in the same boat as you. My 6 year old(boy) does everything he is supposed to do, follows every rule and never talks back. Now my daughter(4) marches by the beat of her own drum! Maybe its a Mother daughter thing, but everything is a struggle with her. Agggg. Mornings=HELL!!!
    I suppose we cant have two perfect kids!!LOL Chances are that one was going to be a challenge.

  23. Angela 23

    link to i saw this on a blog one day – and I saved it for when I have kids- or the kids I nanny for are old enough to use it. I think it is a great idea – though I can’t say personally how well it works

  24. Liz C. 24

    Argh! Our son was the same way. I could have thrown a tub of water on him & he wouldn’t get up on time. Our daughter was always up & ready to go on time.

    I ended up making sure he got EVERYTHING ready the night before so that his morning ritual would only take like 15 or 20 minutes total. He’d even put the toothpaste on his toothbrush the night before, LOL! Still, it was always a struggle. But honestly, he still isn’t a morning person at 26 years old.

  25. KathyB. 25

    This post made me smile! In spite of the fact that this is driving you nuts…I remember the daily struggle with some stragglers..and wish I could have some of those days back!

    You got a lot of good suggestions, I like Lynn’s, if he is late he stays home..too bad, so sad, now you have chores to do here …one day of that should help out.

  26. Flea 26

    :) You poor thing. This is your youngest, right?

    I like the suggestions you’ve gotten. My kids have alarm clock and we have a three strike rule. I’ll take them late three times, but after that they stay home. No one’s had to be taken late more than twice in a school year.

    My kids make their own lunches and shower the night before and that helps.

  27. Marlene 27

    I had a few like that and I’d wake them up earlier than the one’s who required less time. I might also take away a love toy or gaming time for certain periods of time until they get the message. A kitchen timer comes in handy for that. If I set it and a goal to be accomplished (i.e. getting up or getting dressed) and the timer dings, then something gets taken away. Pretty soon, they know you are serious and get it in gear.

  28. Jeanette 28

    How old is he? Because at a certain age, he has to take responsibility to get himself ready.

    My daughter was somewhat like that, not every day though. But when she entered Grade 10, it because a problem. And we lived in the country, so the bus that picked her up was a transfer bus. If you missed the pick up bus, no way you are gonna be able to catch the transfer bus.

    So about end of September, I decided that at her age, she was more than old enough to be able to get herself up out of bed, get dressed, eat etc and get on the bus on time. I did of course continue to have her lunches ready.

    Well, she did play a little game and test me and her Daddy was not too happy either, but by day 5, battle was over.

    She had missed the pick up bus 3 days in a row. Prior to that, I would try and rush like crazy to get her to the transfer bus. But I stopped doing that and said nothing.

    So, day 1 and day 2, nothing was said. Day 3, she is nagging on me about hurrying to get her to the transfer bus. Day 4, she is trying to make ME feel guilty for all the catch up homework she will have to do.

    Day 5, she got up on time, and caught the pick up bus and there was never a further episode.

  29. My head would explode too.

  30. ilyanna 30

    Natural consequences — my boy (now in 2nd grade) has to be dressed and ready for breakfast when I call him. if he isn’t, he misses breakfast. If he’s not ready when I say it’s time, we don’t get to ride bikes (we take the car instead), and if he’s really late, HE has to explain to the office ladies why we’re late. He hasn’t ever made it to tardy slip, but he has has gone to school hungry a few times. For a growing boy, that REALLY made an impression.

  31. I wish I had advice, but I don’t. :P

    Shannon always starts the year out well…getting up on time, getting dressed, you name it. This year she added making her bed and her own lunch to the list. Alas, she has slipped into the lazy bones morning mode and today I made her bed along with her lunch. Oh…and she left her lunch box at school. Got to love that.

  32. annbb 32

    I am sorry to tell you there is no cure for this. None whatsoever. I know this from experience. BLAH!

  33. elra 33

    I remember those days…. drove like maniac, so that my son wouldn’t be late. Morning was always chaotic and rushed rushed.

  34. nancy 34

    have you sat down with him and asked him what he would suggest to speed up his morning process?

  35. I know a lot of people who are on their own clocks–I know what time it is to the minute every minute of the day…but others don’t have a clue. I think there’s a lot of hope because he seems to care about the repurcussions. My mother in law…couldn’t care less whom she keeps waiting. I think you’ll be okay….

  36. I had this problem, so we made a list of what had to be done. Last was getting dressed. When it was time to leave, we left, and if the pajamas were still on so be it (or they had to grab their clothes on the way out the door and dress in the car). Or just keep a set of clothes in the car and let them dress on the way. And don’t turn on the heat! When they have to make the decisions, they figure it out. We never had the stay home option, because mine would have taken advantage!

  37. Kate 37

    He sounds just like my son when he was little. The other son was ready, and the oldest, even though he was awake, just dawdled and got distracted.
    So I left him home and drove off. It scared the hell out of him and I absolutely hated to do it. I was only gone 4 minutes. When I came home, he was crying and I hugged him and told him I loved him but things had to change and I would be leaving him home and taking his brother to school if he wasn’t ready in time. It never ever happened again. Ever. I don’t recommend doing it if school is more than just a few blocks away. I’d never leave a child home for that long.

  38. Gretchen 38

    Best solution is to make him ride the bus. Let him miss it a few times, face the consequences, and I predict he will stop dawdling.

  39. sharon 39

    My mom always gave me a deadline but let me do all the getting ready by myself. I was responsible for making my lunch, packing my backpack,etc and sometimes having that independence and responsibility is a good thing!

  40. Wow! Awesome answers!
    We are on ‘the clock’. Bedtime is 8pm.. I wake the kids up at 6am. They have to have their clothes ready the night before, and they get dressed and to the breakfast table. They have until 6:30 am to eat. Then it’s brush teeth, etc. Then (since we are on a ranch) they do chores… They have to be done at 7am then get ready to catch the bus. Out the door at 7:10 am.
    One hour. Ten Minutes. 2 Kids. One is ‘perfect’ the other isn’t. If they have extra time, they can goof off… But NO TV EVER in the mornings! No matter what day.. And dinner is at the dining table on school nights…

  41. Maggie 41

    Cathy, I have kids like that. They are grown now but this worked like a charm for me. The child who takes the longest to awaken and get ready – is awakened earlier. Period. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. That child will either miss sleep or learn to get his act together. In our case, the child simply awakened earlier every day for her entire school life. But – they were not late! Kids who share a room may have some problems with this method, but perhaps peer pressure will offer some incentive that Mom cannot. Good luck! Being a good Mom is the most difficult job around but has the most rewards.

  42. Cheryl 42

    One twin: Always ready on time. The other? Fights with me cats and dogs. We are in bed with plenty of time and have tried it seems like all the tips above.

    Think yelling and Leapster privilege removal tend to be the most effective…even if not the most maternally attractive. (I do follow the yelling up with “Honey, really, after I’ve asked politely thrice,I have to think you simply don’t hear me.” ;) )

  43. I have to remind my daughter about everything she has to do to get ready. Every time I turn around, she heads for the playroom instead of getting ready :)

  44. SoCalMom 44

    I appreciate reading everyone’s entries because my 10 year old son and 12 year old daughter had similar problems in the morning. (Thank you for this forum and for all you do, Cathy.) I used to have a half hour commute, and two children to take to a school ten minutes away. Always late. My son would lay in bed hollering about how tired he was, “why do I have to do that?”, etc., etc.,. Older daughter was hollering at him all the time and flipping out on me because she didn’t not want to be late. Once I brought him to school barefoot because he wouldn’t put his shoes on, then “gave in” and took them out of my purse (where I put them when he was not looking…). I felt like I had lost control, like it was a big stressful morning for all of us. Getting them ready for school and myself ready for work was at one time dreadful! Maggie- just before me, has a similar sentiment. If they take longer to get ready, they get up earlier. That’s it. And if they don’t get up when asked, I start with the gentle approach “get up sleepy head”, and then it progresses to their choice/punishment of serious tickling or ice cold water sprayed on them. (When older they will have to use their own alarm and snooze instead of Mom-alarm.) It also helped for me to get up earlier and get myself ready and take my time so I don’t feel like we are all three getting ready together. We have tasks that must be done before we all leave for school and work or we as a group do not leave. And they have to negotiate it between them. Take care of pets, dishes into the kitchen, etc., check that everything is in the backpack, signatures, lunches, etc., If they make me run late, they have to help me with my breakfast and iced water, etc., If brother runs late sister has to pick up slack, etc., Bottom line for us–They need to be responsible when they make themselves late, or us late as a team. Before it was too much. Now they each help us all, kind of as a group, to get out the door. I am not a total success, but it has seemed to help if we look at it as a group accomplishment. Interesting too, they both now want to arrive to school early. I mean like a half hour early, when the gates open. “Good job guys!” “Good work, team!”. Seems corny, but it’s been a much better approach than the son sitting around waiting for everyone else to do things for him. Hmm… he must have got that from his Dad’s side of the family… :)

    As an aside- I have made many meals, treats, appetizers, etc., from your blog Cathy– always to rave reviews. I would love to hear what type of quick fool-them-with-delicious-yet-nutritious breakfasts you prepare for your kids. Something besides Honey-Nut cheerios, or fold over egg-sand….

  45. At least you have one that gets it done…get him up earlier. Other than that, I got nothin’ My monkeys are in college this year–Lord only knows if that boy of mine ever gets his act together on a timely basis.

  46. If someone has an answer for this, they would be rich!! I have it even tougher, because my 2 Jr. high kids don’t start school until 9:00 a.m. and I have to be at work at 8:15. So, I leave the house hoping they will lock the doors (which they usually don’t!), put their lunches in their bags and walk to school. It is the worst though. My brother’s daughter still drags her feet and she’s in 8th grade!

  47. We just started back to the morning frenzy this morning–it’s awful!! I wish I had some great ideas on how to make it go more smoothly–but I’m failing miserably so I’m no help at all!!

  48. Pam 48

    It can be so frustrating. My son takes his time every morning too – it drives me CRAZY!!!

  49. Erin from long island 49

    Ah, the morning rush…

    I have 2 ideas for you to try, depending on how you want to approach it. One is to have him (or you) time how long it takes to do everything separately (brush teeth, do hair, dress, eat…). Then chart it out with him and see what needs to be shortened or changed. It will help him feel involved and flex his problem solving muscles.
    The other is to make a race out of it by having him check the clock after every task and try to get done faster each day. Just be sure he isn’t cutting corners!

    Hope you find something that works darlin’!

  50. Amber 50

    Let me guess. It is your youngest? Mine was the biggest procastinator.
    Personally, I am stubborn. I don’t care if you carry your shoes to school and put them on there, I gave up on if her hair looked perfect, I didn’t go back for things she forgot, I just decided it was her problem not mine. Guess what? She is 22 and is starting to get better. So it didn’t teach her anything back then, but my stress level came way down. Maybe I should have found a way to train her better but I sometimes think this is just the way they are.
    I told my kids ought to go to therapy and get over it (my screw ups) ha ha.
    I just know that I would give the world to be in your shoes still raising children, no matter how chaotic.
    You are blessed

  51. Tracy 51

    It is NOT a mother/daughter thing. I have no problem with my daughter being up and ready to go on time. My mother had no problem with me either, but she had plenty of problems with my brother. My mother-in-law had all kinds of problems with her son too.

    Plus this post was about one easy SON and one difficult SON.

  52. nina 52

    I taught for 20 years and have heard this complain from many desperate mothers. One mother organized with me and dropped her son off in his PJ’s….that was the last of his behavior. I have read in a book that we must get the children their own alarm clocks, make them responsible…you are just the taxi, if they are late, they must deal with the consequences. That is what he will have to deal with one day in real life!!!!

  53. mo 53

    It’s been scientifically proven that individuals are wired differently. Some are just not morning people.

    As for the tardiness, try getting him into bed 30 minutes earlier and give him his own alarm clock to wake himself up 30 minutes before everyone else.

  54. One of the things that helped us, is to leave the tv OFF. Mine gets sidetracked by the tv. It has helped somewhat. But we’re still having a hard time getting back into the swing of a regular schedule.

  55. I have four boys. The two oldest boys can make it happen like clock work every morning. The two youngest struggle every morning. The baby is the worst. I think it is just degeneration of genetic material. Be glad you only had two.

    Those degenerates are also my ‘fun’ kids. Of course.

  56. Josie 56

    I was a chronic over-sleeper in elementary/middle school. My mom would get so frustrated when I fell back asleep or refused to get up that she eventually started pouring cold water on the side of my head in a slow little drizzle. To say it worked would be the biggest understatement of all time. I was very afraid of that dribble of water :)

  57. Julie 57

    Tell him if he makes you late he has to go to bed 15 earlier that night. The next time it’s 30 minutes earlier plus that evening he’s grounded from something he enjoys. Sometimes giving them the chance to redeem themselves within 24 – 48 hours is better than a whole week of punishment. The older one had to endure an earlier bedtime than his brother many times. The oldest is now 19 and at Marine Corps bootcamp and I bet they don’t have to nag him to get out of bed.

  58. imom 58

    I had plenty of those battles. I would give time warnings letting my kids know how much longer before we would be leaving. I’d start at 20 minutes and make an announcement every 5 minutes, then a two and one minute warning. This still didn’t help with my daughter. She was older than your son when we finally made a contract.

    Basically the contract said she would be ready to go on time without throwing a fit or she wouldn’t go to school. If she didn’t go to school it was treated like a sick day and she couldn’t do anything fun for the rest of the day… no dance, no church, no playing outside, no tv, etc. For my side of the contract, I wouldn’t yell or swear (I’m bad, I know). I would remain calm. I think she missed one day after we both signed the contract. I haven’t had any issues since.

  59. Wouldn’t it be fun (and Legal) if we could drive off without them? Would they get it? Would it change their behavior? Naw then we are stuck at home with them all day. We always have to “hit’em where it hurts” take away allowance, computer games, tv time, or even time with friends. If you come up with anything that works let us all in on it, you could probably make a fortune and retire young!

  60. I can remember being a kid and feeling the same way. I wanted to go to school, but I was always giving myself a million distractions while trying to get ready. I would head to the closet to get something to wear, but my toys would distract me. Teddy needed a cuddle. I’d see something interesting out the window. I can still remember my grandmother (who lived next door at the time) telling me I “dawdled” too much. I had never heard that word before. IT seemed like she would tell me eveyr time she saw me for a while, “Don’t dawdle in the morning.”

  61. KAYOLA 61

    school mornings and kiddo’s…..argggg..our one that just returned from a mission….would say …after being told a jillion times to get in the tub and get ready for school/church/whatever….”I’m in the tub, BUT I’M NOT TAKING A BATH!” And he would seriously just set there with the door locked and it would drive me NUTS! Kids!!!!

  62. Perhaps set up some other things (in the home he needs to be on time for). Maybe little rewards for each thing on time, followed by losing reward for being late. Getting up, getting breakfast, or whatever you can set up.

  63. Katrina 63

    I have two boys just like yours–one does whatever you tell him to in a nice, timely manner and the other not so much (and a third looking like he’s not going to follow direction as well)! I will be back to read all your comments, but if you hear and learn a good trick, pass it on! ;)

  64. Melynda 64

    There is no way for anyone else to say what is right for your children, and I know you are not asking, however there is definitely something to be said about natural consequences. If the child understands the boundaries/limits of what is going to be accepted by the parent, they will strive to live UP to that standard. If the child knows what is the least that they can get done or away with, they will live DOWN to that standard. This sounds kind of preachy, but it works, just set the limit and keep the tone without malice or emotion. You will prevail. Oh and good luck!

  65. Lisa 65

    Oh, this brings back memories. I’m still not sure what to do about it? I agree with the idea of giving him an alarm clock and trying to make him responsible for getting himself up. Still, experience tells me it is still far from a perfect solution. What I can tell you is that you will make it to the other side and meanwhile, try not to take it too personally.

  66. I’ve gone through the same battle with my kids. Ugh. I just want to drop kick them out the door. We started riding bikes to school and it has worked wonders for us. Gone are the days of receiving the “Your child has excessive tardies” letters. Yippee! Love the photos and recipes — and your wit!

  67. mrhc 67

    If a chart with each activity and time needed doesn’t work, try making a CD with songs for each activity. When the song is finished, that step should be finished. This will also help him develop a sense of how much time it does or doesn’t take.

    Or use a timer. When it goes off, he should be in the car, ready to go and all chores finished. It would be more effective if you can start with each task and a specified time to have it done by so that it is not overwhelming at first. Then begin grouping activities together with the timer.

    Reminding him all the time isn’t working. He needs to be part of the solution. Having a audible reminder that is not you repeating yourself might give you both peace for the beginning of each day.

    My youngest would piddle until I gave him what my expectations were on a day that we had time to talk about how crazy it made me and how it didn’t start his day out well. This last school year, he scolded ME for harassing him to get up. He had his alarm set and he took care of it.


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