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Critical Thinking
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Morning Routine

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It’s a constant struggle to get my daughter up and out of the house in the morning. She refuses to wash her face, brush her teeth, get dressed or let me comb her hair. I’ve tried getting her to bed earlier, but it doesn’t make the mornings any better. How can I speed up my morning dawdler?

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Can we just say that mornings are the worst? But ... life usually goes more smoothly when you and your child work together on problems. Creating a morning routine WITH your child is a great opportunity to form a team effort by using a problem-solving process and at the same time, promote his Critical Thinking skills.


Critical Thinking

is the ongoing search for valid and reliable knowledge to guide beliefs, decisions and actions.

Tips to build this skill:


Identify the dilemma, problem or issue.

To clarify the problem from each of your perspectives, have a frank but non-judgmental discussion with him:

  • “What does our morning routine feel like now to each of us?”
  • “How would each of us like our morning routine to feel like in the future?” This conversation will be a starting point in identifying a goal..

Determine a goal you both want to work toward.

Continue the conversation by stating each of your goals:

  • “I’d like you to be dressed, with your teeth brushed and hair combed by 7:30 AM so we can enjoy each other and not have to rush."

Next, restate your child’s goal:

  • “You want mornings to be more peaceful with us not fussing at each other.”

Then summarize what you both want that’s the same:

  • “We both want mornings to be calmer with less fighting.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when disciplining your child, provide opportunities to make real choices.

Having him work with you on solving this problem provides an opportunity to give him some control and choice over how the morning goes.


Come up with alternative solutions.

When you and your child create new solutions that you haven’t already tried, you are encouraging him to think flexibly. Ask him to think of ALL of the ideas she has to make the mornings better.

It is a good idea to write down all of these ideas without judgment. Include your own ideas too, such as a visual checklist of the required morning tasks.


Consider how these alternative solutions might work.

Phil Zelazo of the University of Minnesota notes that considering alternative solutions requires inhibiting “the tendency to do what one has done before in that situation.” In order to consider alternative solutions, you must use the skill of self-control rather than going on automatic pilot and taking the easy way out.

Go through each of the ideas he has suggested with an open mind, discussing:

  • “What would work for you if we tried this idea? What wouldn’t work?”
  • “What would work for me? What wouldn’t work?”

These questions help him take your perspective, another important life skill. If your child hasn’t come up with any acceptable ideas, you might suggest some:

  • “I know a child who had better mornings when there was a to-do list. I know of another child who liked a timer.”

Alternatively, you can ask him what someone he admires might do:

  • “What do you think your cousin would do if she had this problem?”

Phil Zelazo also says, “Critical thinking is closely related to reflection … Reflection results in and makes critical thinking possible.”


Select a solution to try with consequences if it doesn’t work.

After discussing and evaluating several options for a new morning plan, select one together to try out. This process involves reflection and Critical Thinking.

Talk with your child about the consequences if the solution doesn’t work. Enlist him in deciding on a consequence that he really cares about, one that will motivate him to make a real effort to carry through the new approach you have mutually decided upon to make mornings calmer and more peaceful.


Evaluate the outcome over time. If the solution isn’t working, problem-solve again.

If you’re not getting the results you want, be willing to change your plan or the way that your plan is being carried out. Involve him in your evaluation of how it’s going and what changes could be made by going through the problem-solving process again.

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