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Fights Getting out of Bed

What to do:

Self-Talk. Say to yourself, “We all have needs, and perhaps the most dominant of our needs is to have power and control over our lives. For children, what better way to exercise that power and control than to grab my attention by not doing what I want. Not getting up and dressed in time for school, for example, is a surefire way to get that attention. I can be calm, so he can remain calm.

Empathy. Tell yourself, “Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I understand. I just want to go back to sleep. I need to think about what helps me want to start my day and help figure out what will encourage my child. My empathy to what is going on in my child’s life--a test, competition, etc.--will be helpful in motivating my child to get out of bed.

Teach Tell yourself, “I can help my child learn that getting up and getting ready for school (or whatever activity is for the day) can be a calm and comfortable experience including a special activity to look forward to, instead of dreading the day.”

Start with some joy. Even if you have a child who wakes up grumpy, make a start-the-day activity (maybe calming music wake-up song or another musical 'alarm') to give your child a soothing way to help his thoughts stay positive and his mood calm. It’s hard not to feel your child’s slow-to-warm-up feelings, but your cheerful attitude will be helpful for him to shake off the blues and feel your love and positive attention.

Establish a routine, such as, up and dressed, breakfast, playtime/free time in that order. Pay attention to every step, for example. “I can see that you are about to get up. That’s great and means you’ll have time to do (whatever child wants to do) before school.”

Develop a special ritual, just between you and your child. Maybe it’s laying out the clothes the night before and putting a surprise in a pocket that he looks forward to discovering. Or maybe he gets to mark a chart and get coins to put in a jar every day when he gets up and ready to go on time. Then he takes the coins at the end of the week to his Grandma or Grandpa or another trusted friend, for a special award. Or maybe it’s a favorite mug or cup that she uses just for the morning “get up” juice or water or milk. Whatever it is, whatever you child's age, this special ritual is just for morning.  Everyone looks forward to a comforting ritual to start the day. 

Enlist help of grandparents or special adult friend. Children love being complimented, as do we all. Begin a new habit of the child talking to his grandparent in the morning as a reward after he gets dressed to “show” his clothes for the day and special backpack filled for school. This FaceTime just happens after he gets ready, so build in time in the schedule for the Compliment Game, or some other name that he calls this special exchange.

Start the routine early. Give control of “waking up time” to your child and build in time, so you are not stressed about his taking his slower pace to get ready. Say, “We have to get up at six now because it takes us so long to get ready. When you can get up and ready quickly, then you may sleep longer.”

Set long-term rewards. Tell your child that he can earn rewards, such as extra game time after school, friend time, special snacks or one-on-one time with you. This motivates him to know that getting up on time and getting ready on time are ways to get what he wants.

Enlist your child’s help. Ask you child, "How can we make getting out of bed easier?" This helps your child be in charge, which is what he wants, in a positive way and helps him learn problem-solving. Guide the solution to something reasonable.  For example, if he says, "I want Batman to wake me up," surprise him with a Batman alarm clock.

Play Beat-the-Clock. Children like races, so racing to beat the timer is a motivator. Say, “Let’s see if you can get dressed before the timer rings. And when you play the game with getting dressed, for example, make sure that your child can dress himself and knows what to wear for the day. Lay his clothes out the night before to ensure the easy ticket to avoiding a battle about what to wear, as well.

Use Grandma’s Rule. Say, “When you’re up and ready, then you may do what you want to do (such as read a book, etc.). The idea behind Grandma’s Rule is the child gets to do what he wants to do, after he has done the thing that he needs to do (homework, getting out of bed, etc.) This build a good habit of taking care of personal responsibilities as he grows.

Get further help. If your child refuses to get out of bed to go to school or another activity, check into what may be going on at that place that may be upsetting him. He may not want to tell you what he’s upset about or the teacher/coach may not be forthcoming, unless you ask. If the problem persists, ask your child’s teacher, healthcare provider or parent educator, for example, to advise about further help to make getting up more positive for all.

What not to do:

Don’t nag or beg. Just repeating to a child, "Get up!" sets up a battle for control. Your child thinks: “Hey, look at me. I’m not moving a muscle and I have absolute control over my Mom. I can predict every move that she will make.” Now, that’s an attention grabber if there ever was one. Instead, encourage the behavior you want to teach—getting places on time—through encouragement and motivation.

Don’t threaten or belittle. Threatening your child causes your child to avoid your wrath—thus staying in bed to get away from your shaming, blaming and being upset. In addition, threatening and belittling create stress that can become toxic without a caring, supportive adult to buffer a child's trauma from being shamed. This also doesn’t teach a child important lessons to take responsibility for his commitments—school, other classes, appointments, etc. Helping him learn to to tolerate frustration will help him see that he can do hard things, even if he first resists doing so.

Don’t get them up and dress them to be on time. This only teaches a child that if he protests loud and long enough, he doesn’t have to do what he doesn’t want to do. It also creates a feeling of helplessness and incapability—that you really don’t trust him to be able to do what he needs to do when he needs to do it. Both are lessons that you don’t want him to practice now or in the future—so replace these lessons with positive “what to do” examples above.

The authors and Raised with Love and Limits Foundation disclaim responsibility for any harmful consequences, loss, injury or damage associated with the use and application of information or advice contained in these prescriptions and on this website. These protocols are clinical guidelines that must be used in conjunction with critical thinking and critical judgment.