At the beginning of a new year, it can be tempting to completely change your child's routines and start the year with a bang! Although your intentions may be pure, this approach can often be counterproductive. Introducing too much change at once can be overwhelming for your child, and it's likely unsustainable in the long run. Over time, you may notice new habits and routines falling away, and your child may revert to their old ways.
If your child can’t keep up with an overly ambitious routine, it can lead to frustration, demotivation, and a blow to their confidence. The key to success is to start with achievable goals. When a task is completed, a burst of dopamine is released, which builds motivation and self-confidence.
Long-lasting habits are built by introducing small, achievable behaviors gradually. It is even better if those habits are at the start of their day. The sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a task in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day and provides the momentum needed to tackle more challenges.
When we say start small, we really mean small. Routines aren't established overnight, they're built one habit at a time. We recommend introducing a new habit only after your child has consistently completed the previous one without any reminders or nagging from you. The sense of accomplishment from mastering a new habit will set them up for success when tackling a new one.
Developing habits takes time and consistent reinforcement. It often requires fine-tuning along the way. Focusing on one habit at a time allows you to give your child the attention they need to succeed.
You’ll likely find an array of ‘fool-proof’ morning routines for kids, including habits as straightforward as eating a nutritious breakfast to the extreme - ice baths and detox smoothies.
We recommend returning to the basics by starting with three simple habits - a consistent wake-up time, making the bed, and drinking a glass of water. These are tiny habits with a big impact. They don’t take a lot of time but yield substantial benefits.
These are known as keystone habits, an idea first suggested by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit. A keystone habit is a habit that tends to lead to other healthy habits, like a domino effect.
You'll find these habits will not only start your child’s day with a kick of confidence but significantly impact other areas of their life.
Children and adolescents should get 8-10 hours of quality sleep every night to support their physical and mental well-being. Consistent wake-up and bedtime schedules can improve your child's sleep quality considerably.
Studies have shown that a lack of quality sleep can result in behaviors similar to the symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity. Ensuring your child goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day will keep them feeling alert and refreshed, leading to better cognitive performance and concentration throughout the day.
Tips for Creating a Consistent Wake-Up Time
Determine your child's ideal wake-up and bedtime for 8-10 hours of sleep.
Set up an alarm for their wake-up time.
For the first week, ensure your child isn’t falling asleep after their alarm has gone off. Fragmented sleep can negatively affect mood and focus throughout the day.
Pay attention to your child's sleep patterns for the following weeks and adjust the wake-up time if necessary.
Once a suitable wake-up and bedtime have been established, stick to it consistently - even on weekends and holidays!
Remember, leading by example is essential. If you are up and about around your child's wake-up time, it can help reinforce this routine.
In his famous commencement speech at the University of Texas, US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven said, “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.” For your child, making their bed each morning is less about tidiness and more about starting the day with a win (although a made bed is a bonus!)
Completing one small task, McRaven explains, “will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.” A study of 1,000 people (500 regular bed-makers and 500 not) found that 82% of the bed-makers believe completing a small task early in the day helps them be productive all day.
Tips for Making The Bed
Encourage your child to make their bed immediately after they wake up.
Consider teaming up with your child to make their bed for the first few times. Demonstrate how the bed should be made.
After a couple of tries, let your child make the bed independently and check in occasionally to ensure they are sticking to it!
This habit combines another small win first thing in the morning with a boost of hydration, which is vital for your child’s mental and physical well-being.
According to a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, over 50% of children and teenagers in the United States don’t drink enough water. Another study found that one in five teenagers do not drink any water on a given day.
Drinking enough water has a direct impact on concentration, alertness, and overall cognitive performance, helping kids stay focused during the day. Dehydration, however, can lead to fatigue, irritability, and decreased mental clarity.
Starting the day by drinking a glass of water is a great way to get a head start on your child’s hydration goals and set them up for a successful day ahead.
Tips for Drinking a Glass of Water
To make it easy for your child to develop the habit of drinking water in the morning:
Place a bottle or glass of water on their nightstand the night before to eliminate any obstacles that may prevent them from completing the habit in the morning.
Encourage your child to do this on their own. It can be the very last task your child does before getting into bed!
Sometimes, it’s the small changes that lead to significant improvements. You can help your child start their day well by setting a consistent wake-up time, making the bed, and drinking water. Remember, habits take time to form. Take it one day at a time.
If you need support in this process, we can help! At Coachbit, we specialize in habit formation, and our coaches help students learn, build, and maintain strong habits within the structure of daily routines. With our daily 15-minute check-ins, we can hold your child accountable to habits that significantly improve their daily lives.
Kenney, Erica L., Long, Michael W., Cradock, Angie L., Gortmaker, Steven L. "Prevalence of Inadequate Hydration among US Children and Disparities by Gender and Race/Ethnicity: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-2012," American Journal of Public Health, online June 11, 2015.
Knight, F., & Dimitriou, D. (2019). "Poor Sleep Has Negative Implications for Children With and Without ADHD, but in Different Ways." Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 17(4), 423–436.
Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2018). "Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond". Sleep Medicine Reviews, 40, 93–108.
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). "How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world." European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009.
Rosinger AY, Bethancourt H, Francis LA. "Association of Caloric Intake From Sugar-Sweetened Beverages With Water Intake Among US Children and Young Adults in the 2011-2016." National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(6):602–604.