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Getting Kids To School On Time

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Children That Are Always Late for School

As I was putting together my “back to school” workshop for the teachers at Foundations Private School Adlerian K-8 school in Aurora I thought that if I am helping the teachers prepare, I should give some pointers to the parent community too.  These ideas work best when home and school work together.

Perhaps one of the most universal issues for parents is the morning mayhem that ensues when parents fight to get their children to school on time.  Typically, this results in a power struggle.  The real issue is right in the name: a struggle for power.  A struggle for power is the dance we do with our children to fight to establish just who has power over who.   In healthy relationships, interpersonal power is shared and neither party acts as slave and tyrant to another.

The child who acts like a tyrant is fighting for power they perceive has been usurped by an adult who has attempted to “make them” mind.  To pin point the power struggle, take a look at the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved. Chances are, a parent is sticking their nose in someone else’s business.

Let’s have a closer look at the morning situation:

Who’s responsibility is it to get to school on time? The child’s. 

What happens when you get involved? You rob them of this responsibility and in doing so, take away a piece of their empowerment over themselves.

I understand your motivation. You fear that if you don’t look after this responsibilty, your child won’t either, and the thought of being late for school is abhorrent to you.  After all – what would people say about you and your mothering?  I promise you, there is no better way to get yourself angry than to make your success dependant on someone else’s behaviour. No wonder you’re fighting for power too.  You just gave yours away with thinking like that!

I see it differently, and I’d like a chance to convince you otherwise too.

The first fact that you need to know:  Children will not take responsibility for themselves UNTIL you abandon it. This is why very responsible parents raise very irresponsible children – because the parent can’t give it up!  You think it is your “job”.

Second fact: Your child will not just jump right up and into perfect action when taking on a new responsibility. They will go through a few stages:

  1. Disbelief Stage- they don’t really think that you will follow through with letting them manage their morning on their own.
  2. Testing Stage – they will enjoy taking their time, checking for your reactions, checking to see how long you can go before you jump in and take over again.
  3. Belief Stage – with repeated experience of you not watching the clock, not shouting reminders, and allowing them to experience the consequence of their choices (namely – being late), they will start to understand that no one else has a vested interest in their problem except them! And TV is starting to get boring, and they are missing their friends at school, and no one fights with them at home anymore….
  4. Mistakes Stage – when the child finally decides that it is in their own best interest to get to school on time, and that no one else is going to make this happen but them, they will start to figure out how to solve this problem for themselves.  Being a neophyte at it, they will make errors in judgement, like not leaving enough time, or skipping breakfast to make extra time, or racing around last minute because they can’t find their shoes, whatever.  They will probably be late quit a bit during this particular stage. This is were parents must resist the urge to take over or rescue, but neither does that mean you have to be a meany. If they say “have you seen my shoes” you don’t have to bark back in disdain: “I don’t know, your shoes are YOUR job, If you would have put them in the right place and left more time you wouldn’t be in this mess!” Its okay to have a look around for shoes if you have a moment, so long as it is not a pattern every morning, your child is asking for help, just as your spouse might.
  5. Competence – the last stage comes down the road.

While it did cost the child many late passes, and missing some school each day, I think it is worth these gains:

  • A peaceful start to the day for your family – the best club you’ll ever be in!
  • A child’s sense of confidence and empowerment that they manage themselves
  • A child’s sense of independence
  • A child’s sense of maturity
  • A child’s belief that their parents trust and respect them to look after themselves and their responsibilities

If you ask me, there is as much important education going on here for a child as would be covered in the classroom time they missed.

I know you are asking yourself at what age can you start this?  I began with my children in grade one and kindergarten.  They were late a lot in grade one. By grade two it was much less frequently, but by grade three they had it pretty well figured out.  Now my kids are in grade 5 and 6. I love easy mornings. Sometimes it is the only time we are together as a family for the day. They don’t like being late, and if they are late, it is a real rarity. They manage their mornings beautifully. Well worth the time I invested.

Good Luck! Be sure to share your stories of how this goes for you in the comment area below.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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5 Responses to “Getting Kids To School On Time”

  1. Sheila

    What if they miss the bus and it makes you late for work? I agree with the concept but the execution is hard on parents.

    Reply
    • alyson

      If you make arrangements with a neighbour or a baby sitter, you will have to execute this only a few times and then you are done this battle for life! SO worth it.

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    Thank you for validating this. I’ve often felt like a bad mom, making my kids get ready on their own and make their own lunches. One of my daughters had to rush to school in her PJs once. Only once! Sometimes their lunches are not the healthiest choices too. However, they have learned by the consequences of their actions. I’ve often told friends who question my methods “I am trying to raise responsible adults, not entitled children”.

    Reply
  3. Denise

    This sounds great but how does it work with multiple (4) children? Some get ready, some don’t but I can’t leave any behind when I drive to school. It’s not fair for those ready on time to be late because of others dragging their feet.

    Reply
    • alyson

      Actually – its best if they all realize that one person’s behaviour affects all and so they have a common problem of getting out the door in the morning. If your little brother is mad at you for stealing his prize out of the cereal box at breakfast, he can retaliate by dawdling and making you late for the bell. If kids are put in the same boat – they learn they had BETTER treat each other well and encourage one another to co-operate so they all benefit.

      Reply

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