5 Creative Ways I Help My Slow-Pokey Grouch In The Morning

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“I’m up.”

My 13-year-old is not up. Not even a little. He is still entirely in bed with the covers drawn up to his chin, and through a crack in his thick mop of sleep-mussed hair, I can see his eyes aren’t even open. The only way he could be less up is if he were in REM sleep.

Get. Up,” I growl. “You have 10 seconds to be on your feet and upright or you’ll lose electronics for the day.” I walk away but hover outside the room and peek around his door frame.

He slowly worms himself out of bed and teeters beside it, still hunched over, hair still in his eyes which I’m pretty sure are still closed.

I’ve had to get creative to help my son — and the rest of us — get through mornings unscathed and to school on time.

This is not just a teenager thing. My son has always had a hard time waking up and getting moving in the morning. Even once he finally manages to peel himself out of bed, he dallies. He snuggles with the dog, gazes into the pantry hunting for breakfast as if he is not going to eat the same oatmeal for breakfast he does every morning, and then gazes at the oatmeal once it’s cooked as if trying to decide whether it’s worth eating. On top of the molasses pace, my son becomes highly agitated if something doesn’t go his way, like his little sister is standing too close to him while he brushes his teeth (“hogging the sink”).

Mornings can be a real code red situation around here.

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My son is mostly delightful for the rest of the day, but mornings have always been like this. He just isn’t fully human until he’s been awake for an hour, a fact he will happily admit to. So I’ve had to get creative to help my son — and the rest of us — get through mornings unscathed and to school on time.

If you also have a kid who is a slow-pokey grouch in the mornings, maybe some of these tricks that help my son will make for a smoother morning for you too:

1. I trigger his natural wakeup sensors.

Light is our body’s original alarm clock, spurring the brain’s Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) to send signals to the rest of the body that it’s time to wake up. This involves an increase in body temperature, the release of hormones like cortisol, and the suppression of other hormones like melatonin that make us sleepy when it’s dark. So, before I even attempt to wake up my kid, I raise the blinds, throw the curtains wide, and turn on the overhead light. If you have to wake up before the sun (I am so sorry!), you’ll have to rely on artificial light, maybe like this sunrise-simulating alarm clock.

Yes, I realize all of this requires me to act as my kid’s alarm clock and I will have to stop that eventually, but sometimes parenting is about survival and you do what you have to do to not lose your shit in a particular situation. Trusting my kid to wake up with his own alarm is not the independence hill I’m ready to die on.

Mornings can be a real code red situation around here.

2. I play upbeat music.

Okay, so my son actually hates this because it screws with his ability to keep sleeping, but since that’s my goal, I keep doing it. Eventually he can’t help himself and either starts bopping with the beat or singing along. Music. It soothes the savage beast, including children.

3. I stay out of his routine as much as possible.

I may be my kid’s alarm clock, but my involvement stops there. Once he’s up, I finish my own morning routine. He has a checklist he has to follow and a time he has to be ready by, or else (see #5 below). The most I do is shout from my bathroom to remind him to keep an eye on that clock.

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4. I give him plenty of time.

My kid needs a solid hour to fully wake up. So I give him that full hour. He showers at night, so the only things he needs to do in the morning are get dressed, eat, brush his teeth, and take his ADHD medication. That list is pretty short. For someone capable of moving fast in the morning, it should only take about 20 minutes, but my son needs the full hour. There are some mornings that, even as we’re walking out the door, his eyes are still half-closed.

5. I enforce firm consequences.

The “or else” I mentioned above? If my kid isn’t walking out the door by the designated time, he loses electronics for that day. If we get in the car and he suddenly realizes he forgot something, he loses electronics for that day. I am very firm on this, unless he’s had several solid weeks of good mornings, in which case I will allow for a 2- or 3-minute delay. But this consequence is the coup de grace for our mostly good mornings. Everything else helps, but the potential loss of electronics (no gaming, no videos, no texting friends) is a huge motivator to keep my kid moving when he’d rather lie down on the floor and fall back asleep. So, whatever your sleepy kid’s currency is, use it.

Of course, as every parent knows, even the best-laid plans can be blown to bits at the whims of our dear children. So we take a deep breath and know that tomorrow is another day, another hopefully light-filled morning, another battle of wake-up wills.

May the odds be ever in your favor.