Menucha is the popular author of sixty children's books,
eleven of which have already appeared in English, and a new
textbook Reader, "Sha'a Shel Menucha", for schools
THE GOOD MORNING ROUTINE - How to Wake Children Up in the
Morning is a very pressured time for most parents. Those who
work outside the house, leap out of bed as soon as they wake
up and have a look at the clock. "Time to get up!" they
invariably declare to one and all, themselves included.
Still, it is obvious that morning has not arrived for those
still curled up in their beds, eyes tightly shut, a peaceful
expression on their face, some so coiled in the chains of
sleep that seemingly an earthquake would not shake them or
wake them. The rest is a routine familiar to each household,
in its own manner.
The question we face is how to make getting up a more
pleasant feature of the day, a less traumatic experience, an
easier process, with less tension and pressure.
THE ALARM CLOCK
An obvious solution.
Children do not like to be woken up from a deep slumber. Why,
then, should we, their parents, be the boogey-people to
perform this unpleasant task? It is much more pleasant to
confer this chore upon some`one' who doesn't mind the job,
who won't get insulted at the negative reactions. Some `one'
like an alarm clock...
The question surfaces again: how can we make sure that the
children hear the clock - and heed its message?
To achieve this, we must connect the children to the clock,
to talk to each child at a time when he is relaxed, and to
arrive, together with the child, at the conclusion of a
specific cut-off period for sleeping, a time-on-the-clock
that will allow him sufficient leeway to organize and execute
all of his necessary preparations and get to school on time.
Children who are alert and vigorous can be allowed some extra
sleeping time if they prove themselves capable of achieving
the goal. Children who are slower in organizing themselves
should choose their own realistic time-to-rise. But the very
fact that they are included in the decision, and set their
own schedule, should be an excellent incentive, especially
since they will be required to set the alarm clock
themselves to the hour they have determined. This will
have made it into a project which they control and have an
interest in fulfilling.
In time, the child will become accustomed to getting up on
time, and he will no longer need the alarm clock. His own
biological clock will tell him when to get up - so long as
the parents continue to relegate this responsibility to the
child, and not usurp it themselves!
GETTING UP EARLIER
In order to have the children wake up to a serene atmosphere
each morning and not a tense, hectic scene filled with
outbursts of anger and frustration, it is worthwhile for
parents to preempt the situation by getting up twenty minutes
earlier than their children. A parent who rises in the quiet
of the morn, before the household is in a tizzy, can perform
through choice and not through pressure.
It's a fact; most children don't like to wake up in the
morning to find their parent yawning, in nightdress, rushing
them to get dressed. Getting up is much more congenial
in an atmosphere of organization, where the house and its
daily activities are already moving smoothly along.
If the parent wakes up before the children, s/he can get
dressed in a relaxed manner and prepare himself for leaving
the house, or for the morning's work ahead in the home, as
the case may be. Window shutters can be raised, windows
opened for airing the rooms, a tape with gentle, muted music
can be played. Children can then be woken with a soft caress
and their name tenderly uttered. The moment of awakening
is a crucial one. A child who opens his eyes to a mother
smiling down at him, a tender caress and music in the
background, will be eager to join the fun. He will get out of
bed on the right side, and the rest of the day will follow
When we do our best to neutralize the pressures and leave
enough time to wake up the children in a leisurely,
stressless way, we have solved the getting-up problem.
LEAVING ENOUGH TIME FOR `A FEW MORE WINKS'
Most children don't like to jump out of bed right away, at
least not when they reach school age. This reluctance is even
more pronounced in wintertime. They prefer by far to cuddle
under the warm covers - and pretend to sleep. Actually,
neither do adults exult when they wake up in their warm beds
in the morning, only to find that it is already late and they
must rush their kishkes out. It is much more pleasant
to wake up slowly and luxuriate a bit, stretch a bit, and
then get up calmly.
That's why it is a good idea to wake children up a little
before the time they must get started. To give them a few
more minutes to enjoy the warmth of their beds, to think a
little, and not feel the pressure of activity right away. Let
them get dressed at their pace (just make sure it is paced!),
daydream a bit, interact with their siblings, but in a muted,
and not pressured, manner.
Discuss the length of this extra time with the children. At
what time do they want to wake up - and how much time do they
feel they would like to snuggle up some more under the covers
before actually getting up. How much time do they feel is
necessary to get organized to leave. From an early age
onwards, children enjoy looking at the hands of the clock and
watching its progress. The big hand tells them how much
longer they can still stay in bed before they must get going.
How much time do they still have? A wall clock will keep the
time measured and not pressured.
A NATURAL REWARD IS THE MOST EFFICIENT PRIZE
Children love rewards and prizes, but if we accustom them to
receive a prize for every act, they will never become
responsible for their own actions and will not learn to do
things because this is what is expected of them.
Natural or consequential rewards are different. These are
rewards that result automatically, through cause and effect,
from doing the right thing at the right time. For example, a
child who remembers to take along a sweater on a cold day
will be more comfortable throughout the day. A child who puts
his belongings in their proper place will find them there
when he is looking for them. These are habits or acts which
are their own reward. Similarly, a child who gets up on time
will have enough time to accomplish what must be done,
whereas the child who is rushed will often miss out on
important things. We as parents must encourage the child and
remind him of the natural benefits, the good consequences he
will gain if he gets up on time. Behavior that is its own
Parents can create a `happy time'. They can announce each
morning that seven-thirty, for example, is cocoa-time.
Whoever is ready on time will get their cocoa hot and get
their pick of cookies or cake [in Israel, the real breakfast -
a sandwich and fruit - is eaten at the ten o'clock recess];
if they are late, it will be cold etc. Children will rush to
make this deadline, while going through all the necessary
steps beforehand in order to get the reward, the incentive.
Each household can establish its own reward at its own cutoff
time. Habit will take over and the child will go through the
necessary steps even when the reward is not always
* At bedtime each night, talk with the child about: What is
the first sentence you would like me to say to you when you
wake up in the morning? Monitor yourself and see if you're on
line! Or, your child will do it for you!
* Make a wake-up chain, with the older child waking up the
one next in line. This responsibility will keep them on their
toes, will give them the necessary incentive to get up. Make
sure they do it gently, not harshly.
* Be warm and loving to the child who gets up on time, but
don't scold those who are late risers. And - don't draw
comparisons between them!