Digging deep

December 06,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

A couple of weeks ago I ran into an acquaintance/friend who I used to see more often. Her daughter is a year older than L., and an only child. I mentioned to her how rough the mornings are these days, with the early start time now that L. is in middle school. I told her what a battle it was to get him up and out of bed--it's a two-parent job, for certain (three parents would work even better, if we had another one on hand). I expected her to commiserate--I needed her to commiserate--but instead she told me that her daughter gets up on her own at 6:00, fixes herself breakfast, and then spends about thirty minutes downstairs practicing her violin and reviewing for any quizzes or tests that day.

Thanks, I wanted to say to her. Thanks A LOT.

Then I wondered:

Who IS this child of hers? Where did she come from?

I suspect (hope?) that this is not normal behavior for most 12-year olds. But still, it had me wondering about when children begin to become self-motivated to get up and out of bed; fix themselves breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, etc. We are far, far away from this with L., although T. at 7 has begun to show signs of self-motivation where these daily tasks are concerned. No matter how hard we try, we can't seem to get L. going in the morning without making multiple trips upstairs, and lots of verbal prompting giving way in the end to frantic threats. I know he is only eleven years old, but because we are working very hard on teaching him to be more self-sufficient, it's difficult not to be making any progress in those areas. it doesn't help that L.'s sleep cycles have become more "teenager-like" lately--he'll stay up too late and on weekends sleep and lounge in bed until sometimes 10:00 am.

Nothing has worked, from alarm clocks to point systems. So I'm turning to you for advice. How do you handle the mornings with your tweens at your house? Do they get up on their own? Get dressed? Fix their own breakfasts? How have you taught them self-motivation? How have you helped them learn that it benefits them to get up, out of bed, and to school on time?