In our house, being late to school is closely related to my daughter’s attitude in the morning, but it’s more closely related to how committed we are to our routine. My husband, who grew up on the other side of the earth in Scotland, says his primary school teachers combatted tardiness by stationing themselves inside the classroom door and giving a swat to the bum of the last child in the door after recess, everyday, late or not. Was it ever him? Of course. But that was how he learned to be punctual.
Our morning ritual slides drastically after family trips, transitions and holiday breaks, and it wasn’t till I sought help that I gathered some tried and true tricks to getting our little one to school before the Pledge of Allegiance starts. Here are five tips to help combat morning mischief and tardiness:
1. Few children pop out of bed ready to start the day, but I am told some exist. Chances are, your child does not, so it is your job as an adult to look at your morning ritual which actually starts the night before. If your child is continually five minutes late to school, start by having them get to bed five minutes earlier.
2. When it’s time to head out the door for school, don’t suddenly announce it’s time to go. Do the 5-3-1 countdown; five minute warning, followed by a three minute warning, one minute and then :30 second warning. Yes, it’s more work for you as an adult, but children don’t master the concept of time until age 6 or 7, so helping them with a countdown will help build their understanding of how long things take.
3. Institute a bad behavior chart with both good and bad consequences, situated by the front door or where you leave. Have your child work toward a good experience such as a playdate or trip to the museum rather than buying something, and also allow points or stickers or marks to also be taken away for bad morning behavior such as feedback, crying and yelling. A quick Google search find tons of charts already made…find the best one for you and your family.
A special note with this chart: Include everyone who helps get your child out the door on the chart. Dad gets bad marks for bad morning moods and mom gets bad marks for raising her voice. Everyone should be subject to the chart so the little one doesn’t feel picked on.
Another reason to spread the blame around a bit is you also find out who is the culprit with morning attitude and lateness problems. You may find the morning mischief title belongs to the family member you least suspected.
4. Sugary breakfasts may get the body moving, but maybe in the wrong direction. If you’re giving your child more than 12 grams of sugar to start their day, that is a bad mood in the making. 12 g is the same amount of sugar in a lollipop. Check cereal boxes; your child should have less than 9 grams of sugar in their cereal. Milk also has sugar, and OJ is best watered down or with sparkling water added to it unless you want them to be soaring with 24 g of sugar, half the recommended amount for a day. Better yet, mix things up with protein-heavy eggs or turkey bacon to lessen sugar but give tons of energy.
5. Remember that we all have bad mornings along with the good. Allow your child a special treat some mornings, even if it’s odd and not typical morning behavior, like warming up their clothes in a dryer. My daughter gets up early when she can listen to the Ghostbusters theme over and over and over while taking a bath. Weird but it works to get her moving and out the door.