First, my credentials. In Kindergarten, my son’s classmate told his mother, “It doesn’t matter if we’re on time. R— is late every day.” Now in Grade 1, I learned my child’s chosen goal for the year is to “get to school on time.” Not learn about how light bulbs work, or make papier mache, but be on time. So in an effort to liberate my child from the pain of chronic lateness, I’ve discovered a few techniques that work for us – and I’m sharing them here.
This impossible-sounding step is so essential you need to internalize it as a mantra, rather than a breakable rule, to make the rest of the routine work. No matter how fool-proof your chart, how attractive your incentives, kids will be their regular non-listening, whining, last-minute pooping, still-hungry, forgot-library-books selves, and you will yell. Because they have it coming.
I’m not saying they don’t. They do. But if you make the no-yell commitment top priority – even higher than being on time – you’ll be more creative and successful at motivating all the other steps.
For example, I really like to drink a cup of coffee first thing. The whole cup, seated the whole time. But since my little darlings wake at 6, I flip on cartoons to buy myself this “me time”. Predictably, once TV is on, it stays on. So for the sake of my cushy coffee time, I spend the next hour shouting at people to put on their underpants while I cut crusts off hundreds of slices of toast and boil pasta for lunches because now we’re out of sandwich bread.
Who’s fault is the yelling? Mine.
The horribly inconvenient truth is that I need to get up 30 minutes earlier. I may even have time to shower, dress nicely, eat something nutritious and apply concealer. When I feel together, I cope without yelling (and without TV).
Then when my kids tumble forth, rumpled and squinting, I actually enjoy “wasting” five minutes on a cuddle, a book, or endless plotlines of last-night’s dream. If you subscribe to the attachment parenting theory, you’ll recognize this early-morning reconnection as key to maintaining parental authority without shouting.
Power up your little people
When I run around barking orders, my kids tune me right out. Why? Resistance is the only power left.
With a scheduled list of morning tasks, my eldest has his own visual reminder to keep him on track. For ages, I thought these lists were nonsense. How can you forget your pants? Or the backpack you take every day? But then again, how many times do I run back into the house for my phone, keys, sunglasses, wallet? According to this article, a slack attitude is not the problem. It’s simply the way some brains cope with multiple tasks.
Plus, when there are disputes about screen-time rewards or pyjamas on the floor, Mummy isn’t the big meanie: it’s The Chart. To my son, a written rule is non-negotiable. And therefore a kind of power to little people.
Shave seconds off your time
Many experts recommend completing as much as possible the night before: lunches, backpacks packed, breakfast pre-made, clothes picked out. This level of preparedness makes me nauseous, to tell the truth. But depending on your family’s particular lateness tendencies, one of these crazy tricks may be just the one you need.
When I first read about sleeping in the next-day’s school clothes, I thought it was madness.
For my sweaty sleepers, laying out clothes in the shape of a person, scarecrow or crime-scene style is much more attractive.
Here are a few tricks just cute enough to be tolerable.
Freezer breakfast burritos! Pre-made and labeled rolls with different fillings kids grab for their own lunches. An emergency pack in the car is so smart for days when the alarm clock fails. Include protein bars or other non-perishables and minty gum for teeth.
For the ultimate in preparedness, you may appreciate this mother’s habit of packing bags and jackets in the car the night before. It’s undeniably brilliant.
My personality prefers a catch-all box or space for everything near the door.If there’s one box per person, I know the item is in there somewhere, and not in one of the other dozen surfaces attracting paper, books or shoes.
Now in Grade 1, we are consistently within two minutes (plus or minus) of the opening bell. But. Without. Any. Screaming. That’s like… 15 minutes early, by my method of timekeeping. Most importantly, I hope, my methods are demonstrating that keeping calm and working together is just as valuable as perfect punctuality in having a productive day.