Conquering Morning Tantrums: Your Guide to Easier Mornings

The morning rush can feel like a battle. When you’re dealing with tantrums and resistance from your child, it can turn a pleasant morning into a stressful ordeal. Many parents are all too familiar with this scenario. This guide provides insights on managing your child’s behaviors, from understanding what drives these tantrums to teaching replacement behaviors, and more.

Establishing a Consistent Morning Routine

There’s power in predictability for children, especially in the early hours of the day. The familiarity of a regular morning routine can create a sense of comfort, while also giving your child a sense of mastery over their day. An established routine can work wonders here, breaking down the morning into manageable, understandable tasks. At times, it might feel like your child doesn’t understand what you’re telling them you’re doing next; this is where a well-designed visual schedule might come in to play. Visual schedules can have a variety of activities on them, including eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, in order to help your child know what is to come. Better yet – find a way to have them “mark” things off as they go, such as with stickers or check marks.

Encouraging Independence through Reinforcement 

Once your child is getting the hang of their morning routine, it’s time to foster a sense of independence. The secret is reinforcement – they get a motivating item, but only after they’ve successfully finished a task on their own. Perhaps it’s a sticker for brushing their teeth without assistance, or an extra few minutes of playtime for getting dressed all by themselves. Coupled with visual schedules that illustrate the day’s tasks, your child can gradually take charge of their own morning, step by step. This approach not only instills a sense of accomplishment but also minimizes your child’s reliance on you, easing those chaotic mornings. So, don’t shy away from setting clear expectations and reinforcing their efforts. After all, the goal is a confident child who navigates their morning routine with ease.

“First/then” statements are another wonderful technique to help your child navigate through these tasks. These simple, structured instructions guide them to know what comes next and what’s expected, painting a clear picture of their routine. Say, “First brush your teeth, then we can have 5 minutes of videos.” Here, a less appealing task is paired with an enjoyable one, offering an incentive for your child to finish their task. It’s about striking a balance and using anticipation to motivate your child. When used consistently, these statements can become a game changer in your morning routine, making tasks less daunting and more manageable for your little one.  Less words is more for both kids that like to “negotiate” and also learners with less language skills.

Taming Tantrums: Understanding the Motivation Behind Morning Behaviors

At times, tantrums can feel like a mystery, but there’s often a logical reason lurking beneath the surface. They may be a result of your little one struggling with transitions, dealing with sensory overload, or being overwhelmed by the demands of the day. Could they be protesting because they’re exhausted or hungry? Or are they avoiding a non-preferred activity (such as brushing teeth or getting dressed) that they know is coming? Fear of failure on the task?  By connecting with your child’s feelings and needs, you can start to unravel the causes of these early morning trouble spots. Typically, all behaviors serve one or multiple functions: Access, Escape, Attention, an/or Sensory needs. The key lies in identifying these triggers so you can proactively address them, creating a calmer, more peaceful start to the day for both of you.

Teaching Replacement Behaviors

The secret sauce to lessening morning tantrums is not just in halting the outbursts, but in equipping your child with different behaviors. Let’s say your child begins to  tantrum when brushing teeth comes up. Teach them to request a pause instead. Use role-play to practice these situations, validate their effort in adopting new behaviors, and gently guide them back when they slip back into tantrum mode. Our goal here is to identify what our child’s behavior is communicating, and then help them communicate this in a more conducive way. It’s about taking those baby steps towards positive change, and fostering a happier morning environment for everyone. Remember, patience and calm is your ally in this journey.

Seeking Professional Help When Needed

It’s important to recognize when outside help might be needed. While your strategies can significantly lessen morning tantrums, some challenges could prove to be persistent. If your child’s behavior continues to cause distress or interfere with their everyday routine, there’s no shame in seeking expert guidance. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Occupational Therapists, and Speech-Language Pathologists are well-equipped with an array of strategies and treatments designed specifically to manage and improve such behaviors. These professionals can provide invaluable support, ensuring that your little one is set up for success in their morning routine and beyond. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of failure, but a step towards progress and achieving more peaceful mornings.

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If you’re ready to learn more about  Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language PathologyFeeding Therapy, or Applied Behavior Analysis services at MeBe, contact us today.

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