Ask the Experts

Q: My Child’s Morning Routine is So Slow — and Defiant

Does your child take forever in the morning? Require multiple reminders and loads of nagging? For many ADHD families, the morning routine is stressful and so very slow. Use this positive-parenting advice to motivate your child to improve his time management and executive functions before school.

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Q: “My 9-year-old son’s ODD is really bad in the mornings. He has a really difficult time getting up and getting ready for school. He is extremely defiant and will go as slow as he can and refuse to get ready. We are often late. He has a hard time going to sleep at night, so trying to put him to bed early isn’t helpful. If we try to let him sleep as long as possible, this doesn’t give us time to complete everything in the mornings. Do you have any advice for making mornings go more smoothly and doing away with the defiance and being late?”

A: “What you might be seeing is that your son doesn’t have a sense of urgency — this is common because kids with ADHD have difficulty sensing the passing of time. If you have difficulty sensing the passing of time, you won’t be a rush to go anywhere. On top of that, if your parents are rushing you, that’s where the defiance comes in because it’s stressful… You need to incentivize his getting ready in the morning by allowing him to have a preferred activity for a set amount of time that morning if he’s successful…”


Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW is the facilitator of the ADHD Dude Facebook Group and YouTube channel. Ryan specializes in working with males (ages 5-22) who present with ADHD, anxiety with ADHD, and learning differences; he is the one professional in the United States who specializes in teaching social cognitive skills to boys from a male perspective.

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1 Comments & Reviews

  1. Hi I’m responding to a question asked about morning routine and the 9 yr old child being slow and defiant. My sons also shares the same age and he struggles greatly with mornings. ( well he did , and still can have his off days but I’ve personally had great improvement from this simple chart, meaning it’s simple to make.) grab a large poster board (maybe some stickers) from the dollar store and write on the top “ ______ chart” separate AM AND PM by morning and afternoon. Starting with Monday (ending with Sunday, Sat and Sun are small task for clean room) for morning say you have to leave the house by 8:30. I expect my child to be dressed by 7am this allows the child not to feel rushed, time to adjust to a new routine and as they start to accomplish and reach the small goals on the chart (that they can even help you create )they reach a fulfillment within and by the time you know it mommy /daddy; I’m dressed ,my teeth are brushed, I have my socks , I have my shoes on I’m ready. The joy on your kids face will be unremarkable they don’t mean to disappoint, they’d rather look for you approval and make you happy. . (This chart is also a “screen time chart “) so M-F lets just use “John Charts” first task if dressed by 7. Personally my family situation the first thing my child does in the morning, Is brush his teeth . Possibly for children struggling with brushing I would recommend a bonus feature to be added on the chart . My bonus features are an extra five minutes of screen time when this task is completed. My screen time rules are 15 minutes in AM and 15 minutes in PM. So 30 minutes of screen time daily. Screen time can also be saved so if not used 1 day can be saved and the time will accrue. So how about my child isn’t into screen time ? I think in this generation that’s a rare case but it can be used for anything that spend the most time doing but I feel a screen time chart is fit for just about any family ;excuse me if I’m wrong. I’m a single mom sharing what helped for my son whom has received special services since age 1. Back to the chart . M-F there’s a lot going on keep your child’s task 2, 3 Max. If Wednesday is library day have you child a task of putting their Library book in her book bag Tuesday . ( homeschoolers your amazing and could use this also) kid doesn’t like to shower ? Have a task of Sunday and every other day for a shower AM or PM alternate to figure out whatever fits best . ( we don’t have that issue I can’t keep mine out of the bath he showers twice daily) in the beginning configure one chore with a reward if acceptable ( could be a family movie night ) sports , sports can also be added.

    So you’ve made the chart or thought about it . There’s also a 3 strike zone. (Write the strike zone on the bottom of the chart) That’s your discipline area. Examples would be no negotiating ,no back talk ,no talking back ect..if your child has a sibling be nice to your sibling ,or an automatic three strike would be if you were to hit your sibling. Or what ever you feel your child may have a harder time with . Overall I’ve tried to explain this chart to the best of my ability. Was this chart easy ? NO. Did my child like it? No. Did my child have fun making it with me? YES! How long did this chart take to work in my home 3 very long weeks. But it worked and it still works. We have been using this chart for almost a year now and it’s excellent . My child wasn’t happy and threw fits yes he was extremely defiant and still can be very defiant but my main goal for this chart was to get him in a structured morning routine and to eliminate screen time and for him to understand the elimination of screen time.

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