After shifting to online teaching during the Covid19 pandemic, an elementary teacher noted that students who had frequently been late for school prior to the on site shutdown were suddenly on time for online learning. It came to light that once online learning began the parents were no longer involved in their children’s morning routine. Most mornings parents remained in bed while their children readied themselves for the school day. Additionally, the teacher observed that the students in question enjoyed taking charge of their morning routine without parental oversight/interference and began demonstrating increased independence in other areas as well. With parents today citing noncompliance from their children as a primary reason for arriving late to school, there is clearly a lesson to be learned from this teacher’s observation.
Failing to comply with parental directives is often followed by back-and-forth banter between parent and child; bantering that includes begging, cajoling, bargaining, and/or promises of rewards in return for compliance. When those strategies fail, threats of punishments often follow. After a morning of discord and chaos, it is understandable that children arrive at school frazzled and distracted.
Barring any physical and/or mental handicap, Pre=K students and beyond are capable of getting ready for school independently. Miscalculating the degree that their children need assistance results in many parents becoming overly involved. Overly involved parents rob their children of the opportunity to exercise personal independence and build self-confidence. As such, their actions can end up promoting more frustration for their children and less harmony for the family.
The good news: Morning drama does not have to be the norm! When parents consistently apply the 5 steps below, they can move the family atmosphere from morning chaos to morning calm:
1. Commit to setting a new tone in the home. Share with your children that all family members (parents included) will participate in making necessary adjustments to ensure a timely arrival at school. Children are more likely to comply when they observe adults participating in needed changes.
2. Rise 30-60 minutes prior to awakening children. This one adjustment may well be the key to establishing an entirely different tone in the home. Allowing adequate time to become fully awakened and ready for the day can be a game changer for parents. The potential benefits far outweigh a few days of discomfort.
3. Allow children the time THEY need to prepare for the day. Once children demonstrate that they are capable of preparing for school, allow them to do so independently. Unable to accomplish tasks as quickly as adults, help children be successful by providing them with additional time. As with adults, rising earlier can significantly minimize a child's stress.
4. Make it clear that arriving at school late is not an option. If children run late due to lollygagging, being uncooperative or belligerent then a consequence is in order. To be optimally effective, a consequence must be meaningful to the child. The good news is that consequences for children aged 3+ do not have to be immediate. If a negative incident occurs on Thursday and a special activity is planned for Saturday (sleepover, play date, movie…), missing the anticipated activity may be a far more meaningful and effective deterrent.
[Parents in previous generations understood that in order to reap long term benefits, short term pleasures may need to be sacrificed. Many parents today admit to having personal feelings of guilt when even thinking about their child missing an anticipated event. Nipping negative behavior in the bud once and for all is in everyone’s best interest. The misbehaving child should feel guilt, not the parents.]
5. Resolve to stay focused on the mission. The ultimate goal of child-rearing is to raise future adults who are respectful, responsible, resourceful, and resilient. To be successful in this charge, children must 1) feel unconditional parental love and 2) view their parents as sincere, authoritative leaders of the family. When these two conditions are solidly in place, respect for parental authority increases. When respect for parental authority increases, positive behavior increases.
GUIDELINES FOR DELAYED CONSEQUENCES:
Though timely consequences are ideal, if a more meaningful consequence requires that implementation be delayed, below is a general 'rule-of-thumb' guide by age:
· 5-6 years old (3 days)
· 7-9 years old (up to a week)
· 10-12 years old (2-4 weeks)
· Teenagers (months)
©Sharon Knapp Lamberth, Sept. 2023