COVID-19 has completely interrupted our routine as I'm sure it has for you too! Since school opened back up about 2 weeks ago I've been working hard at setting a morning routine again in order to prevent tantrums and a rough start to the day. I like to make things as easy as possible especially in the morning time. I used to throw up in my mouth at the thought of having "routine" but since having Johanna, I can't do things without it! At least not in the morning!
I want to talk about tantrums SPECIFICALLY, morning tantrums. This is the tired tantrum, the "why are you waking me up tantrum," the please let me sleep longer tantrum. I realize that my schedule is unique to others and I have to get up very early for work. I prefer that she wake up on her own time but on work days I have to wake her up.
First, let me share my morning schedule with you, in great detail! Let me also say that I am fully aware that every child is different and this schedule may not work for everyone. Something to note is that this is my schedule Wednesday - Saturday because these are the days that I work. Sunday through Tuesday are much more relaxed and have little to no routine. 4:30am - I wake up and get my coffee drinking on in the silence! Sometimes I drink it on the patio with Cookie and sometimes I just sit on the couch and listen to nothing! 4:40am - Yoga time for about 20 minutes (this doesn't happen every morning). Sometimes I start getting ready early or I just relax for a bit longer. Sometimes I do my bible study or read.
4:55am - Feed Cookie 5:00am - Take a shower and get myself ready for work. 5:20am - START waking Johanna up (turn the sound machine off, open her curtains, make myself present in her room). 5:25am - CONTINUE waking her up by rubbing her hair or back, taking her covers off and get her out of bed 5:30am - Sit in her room with her cuddling and "talking" her awake. I do things that make her laugh so she can be in a good mood. One of these things is singing silly songs to Cookie! 5:50am - get her dressed for the day 6:00am - get her breakfast ready and let her eat (this does not always happen because she takes awhile to eat after she wakes up, most days she eats breakfast at daycare) but I still give her the option of eating at home first 6:10am - brush her teeth and fix her hair 6:20am - leave the house Seems like overboard, right? The fact is this.... babies and toddlers are NEEDY! Another fact is that you know your child best! Figuring out what will work for them can be challenging but it also takes a lot of patience. I am the first to say that it is extremely hard for me to sit still for long periods of time especially after 2 cups of coffee. Deep breaths Mama's.
Another fact, nothing is about you anymore! This is the reason that I make sure I wake up before her in order to set the tone for my day. If I don't get myself ready before I tend to her then the day is just miserable.... I want to give you some points on the morning tantrums which can help explain why they have them and how to prevent them. I don't know about you but I would rather not spend my morning with a crying toddler and I know this from experience!
Now, when I say nothing is about you anymore, I'm talking about that little fact that you just read (babies and toddlers are NEEDY). They don't simply grow out of not needing your affection overnight. When your baby was a newborn, the first thing you did when they would wake up was cuddle them, right? Chances are your toddler is like mine and they still need that love and affection when they first wake up. If your toddler is an easy riser then I'm completely jealous of you! Johanna is just down right grumpy when she wakes up and it takes her awhile to get out of sleep mode. It is so easy for us as parents to allow our busy schedules to get in the way or interrupt the affectionate relationships with our toddlers. Trust me, I get that!
This is why waking up early just to simply "cuddle" them awake can be so vital to setting the tone of not only your busy day ahead but also the relationship you have with your little one. Despite them growing quickly and continuing to become independent, they still need you just as much as they did on that day they were born. Truth be told I also need those cuddles in the morning! So step one to avoid the morning tantrum is to take an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning to cuddle!
Here is something that I do just to get that extra time! Avoid as many "tasks" in the morning as humanly possible! The night before I will get our outfits together, anything Johanna needs for daycare (diapers, extra clothes, etc.), pack her lunch and mine (of course she has to help me), set my coffee maker (I love that timer on it), clean up whatever needs to be cleaned and get my work bag together. There is no bigger pet peeve of mine than rushing to get things together in the morning. I'm also aware (because I'm not perfect and it's happened before) that when I am rushing to do things I get very anxious. Johanna picks up on this because it results in me rushing her. I find myself saying things like, "We have to go, come on let's hurry, hurry and brush your teeth, etc." Nobody likes being rushed or directed by someone else who is in a frenzy and that includes toddlers! Toddler's do not understand timing, your schedule or being late! While I fully believe that communication is key, telling them that Mommy is going to be late means absolutely nothing to them. Get as much done as you can the night before so there is no rushing and no confusion.
Remember that tantrums usually happen when your toddler is feeling frustrated. While frustration can happen from anything, the common form comes from the lack of the ability to communicate. Working with Johanna's personality, I try my best to make our routine the same everyday! This way, she has limited needs to communicate too much so early in the morning. Could you imagine waking up in a grog and then trying to explain to someone what you want for breakfast but not knowing the word for the food??? Yeah, I'll pass. For example, I give her the same things for breakfast on work days. It is oatmeal, yogurt and some kind of fruit. There are options but not too many that she will get frustrated. Over the last 2 years, I've learned that Johanna does much better with a routine and getting the same things over and over. Don't get me wrong here, there are some mornings when she wants to wear her pajamas to school and others when she wants to wear her socks with her sandals. That takes up some time when I have to explain to her in toddler language that she can't. These are the mornings where there are plenty of other options for her to choose from. But for the most part I kept it routine, the same and strict! Keep in mind I am only with her while she is awake for about 50 minutes in the morning time. I really don't have too much time to have long drawn out discussions with her about what she wants for breakfast or which shoes she wants to wear. We save those conversations for after work and off work days!
Lastly, make sure your toddler is getting adequate sleep the night before. At age 2, they still need about 12-13 hours a sleep each day. This took some time for me to get down but it was well worth it. If you've read my other blogs about sleep you'll know that I had to adjust her bedtime several times. Now, we are back at adjusting because COVID caused it to become 9pm or even 10pm. That's no good for a toddler who has to wake up at 5:30am. We are still working on getting her bedtime back to 7:30pm and we are almost there. Right now, she gets to sleep around 8:30pm. I am adjusting it by about 10 minutes each night as not to overwhelm her! Sleep is so important for everyone but especially for toddlers because their brains are developing. When they are rested throughout the night, the morning becomes so much better!
I hope this wasn't too much information but enough to help! Remember that no one knows your child better than you do. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa! I can assure that morning temper tantrums don't work for any of us. You're doing a great job Mama!