Uh-oh, someone’s in trouble and it’s not your kid. Well, it is, but it’s not entirely his fault. See, that was his teacher on the line. She called to let you know that he’s been late four out of five days this week and it’s starting to affect his performance. Not to mention that one more lateness will put him in detention. He’s a grade-schooler so the onus for getting him to school on time falls on you. But you’re doing the best you can and is it really such a big deal that he’s a few minutes late? Well, ask him how he feels about detention.
You’ve got a lot on your plate and this feels like the last straw. But here are a few small changes you can make to your routine to get your child where he needs to be when he needs to be there.
The night before . . .
Put completed homework in the backpack and put the backpack by the door
This may seem slightly OCD, but trust me, it’ll help. Sending your kid back to his room to look for his lost homework when you’re trying to get everyone (including yourself) out the door in the morning is a recipe for lateness. There are just too many tempting things (his bed included) in his room to distract him. Looking for his homework is probably pretty low on his priority list first thing in the morning, especially when he remembers that he forgot to glue the head on his Frankenstein model last night and it’s just sitting right there. You’re much more likely to find him holding the monster’s decapitated head (when you finally head down the hall to see where the heck your child has gotten to) than his missing homework. Making sure it’s safely in the backpack, and the backpack is safely by the door (rather than lost under a pile of old socks), ensures a much smoother morning.
Lay out clothes for the next day
For some kids, choosing what to wear can be a time-consuming process. Others may care so little they’ll go to school in yesterday’s outfit (including the underwear) without thinking twice. Either type of kid can benefit from choosing clothes the night before. The fashionista will have ample time to sort through the closet to choose (and re-choose) the perfect ensemble, rather than standing in front of the closet wailing about having nothing to wear when you were supposed to have left five minutes ago. The slob will be forced (with your guidance) to choose clothes that are actually clean rather than rolling out of bed and into whatever’s lying on the floor.
Pack the lunch
If your child brings his lunch to school it’s a really good idea to make sure it’s ready before he goes to bed. Depending on his age, your child can pack the lunch himself but, whoever does it, it should be done before bedtime. Leaving it until the morning makes it much more likely that it will either be forgotten entirely or that you’ll have to throw something together at the last minute and, regardless of their eating habits when left to their own devices, kids can’t survive on left-over pancakes and fruit snacks forever. (If making the lunch the night before is not a problem but remembering to get it out of the fridge in the morning is, then stick a post-it to the front door to help you remember.)
Set a reasonable bedtime and stick to it
Staying up late every once in a while (for a special occasion, for example) is one thing, but frequent late nights will be begin to take their toll. Allowing your grade-schooler to decide what time he should go to bed is kind of like letting him choose between ice cream and green beans for dinner. He may not want to go to bed (in fact he’ll probably fight it with everything he’s got), but you need to stand firm and enforce a bedtime routine. It’s also a good idea to limit electronics in the evenings and make sure they are entirely inaccessible after bedtime. If the computer, iPad, iPhone, etc. are in his bedroom, chances are he’ll be tempted to use them after lights out. If he needs some time to wind down once he’s in bed, let him read for a few minutes instead.
The morning of . . .
Know what time you need to get up and set an alarm
Figure out how long it actually takes to get everyone out of the house and then set an alarm to wake up with time to spare. Set one for your child and one for yourself. Your child being awake does no good if you’re not there to remind him to get ready for school. But having to be your child’s alarm clock isn’t helpful either. It’s hard to get ready if you’re also trying to drag your comatose child out of bed. Harder still if he’s yelling at you and throwing pillows at your head. But do check to make sure he’s actually up once his alarm goes off. You’d fall back asleep too if you could.
They’re not joking when they say it’s the most important meal of the day. If your kid doesn’t eat breakfast he probably won’t get anything to eat until at least 10:30, if his school does snack time, or even later if he has to wait until lunch. Trying to concentrate on an empty stomach is a Herculean feat. It also leads to crankiness, and crankiness leads to misbehavior and meltdowns. So make sure he gets an actual meal. A bowl of cereal is fine but a pop tart in the car isn’t going to cut it. Organize the routine so that getting dressed, brushing hair, etc. comes before breakfast. Then breakfast acts as an incentive for getting dressed. Plus, he’ll have had time to work up an appetite so he can eat a good breakfast and be ready for the day.
Know what time you need to leave
Know how long it takes to get to school and how long it takes to get everyone out the door once you’ve said it’s time to leave. Work backwards from when you have to arrive and determine what time you need to start hustling people out the door. Saying, “time to go!” when it’s actually time to be gone is a guarantee for arriving after the bell. Planning your timing this precisely may seem ridiculous but you’re much more likely to get there on time. So who cares?
Being a little late each morning may not seem like a big deal but it definitely has it’s consequences. Those late slips often add up to punishments, lower grades or flags on your child’s report card. It also means that your child is missing out on the chance to greet his friends and teachers in the morning and get settled for the day which could have far-reaching consequences for his level of engagement and comfort down the line. So synchronize your watches. You can do this!