End dillydallying—and battles—for good. See which tips work for you.
SMART ANSWERS TO PARENTS’ TOUGHEST QUESTIONS
My kid doesn’t see why being late for school—or anything else—is not an option. How do I get him to even care about being on time?
Try encouraging him to think about how his teachers, friends, and others may think when he keeps them waiting for minutes—or even hours. “Give tangible, real-world examples about how lateness may make others feel,” says Faye de Muyshondt, founder of socialsklz:-) (Social Skills) for Success in New York City. That may inspire empathy and a sense of responsibility to be on time for commitments like team practices, group events, or handing in homework on time.
OK, but how do I start that conversation?
First, “When a child is part of the problem, he needs to be part of the solution,” says Beverley Cathcart-Ross, founder of the Parenting Network and certified parent educator in Toronto, Canada. She suggests you begin by saying, “I’ve noticed that for the last three mornings I’ve raised my voice a lot to get us out of the house on time. That must be a stressful way to start the day. How do you feel about our morning routine?” It’s important to listen to your child’s answer. You might add, “I love you too much to start our day this way.” Then together, brainstorm ways to make the next day better.
Mornings are hard. What can we do to make them easier?
Make a checklist of things your child has to do every morning, and get her input,” says Jodi Dworkin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. So, if she wants to play Pokémon, tell her she’ll need to get up earlier. Don’t be discouraged if the plan doesn’t work at first. “Children learn by trial and error,” says Ms. Cathcart-Ross. “Make a list of her ideas. If there’s something you don’t like, give your child two days to show she can make it work.” However, you may have to tweak your plan again, she adds.
Are there any surefire ways to help my child stay on top of things?
Nothing happens overnight. But you can create a weekly chart, have your child follow it, and together track how often he gets out the door or completes his assignments on time, says Ms. de Muyshondt. Or try a timer. “I have a really big timer that helps my kids understand the passage of time,” Ms. de Muyshondt continues. Dr. Dworkin says, “You also can allow your child to choose when he wants to do his homework assignments—for example, right after school or in the evening, before lights out.” If the school posts assignments online, even better—you can look at the assignments together and then discuss how to hand it all in on time.
And what if she still procrastinates? Do I cover for her or not?
Let her face age-appropriate consequences, says Dr. Dworkin. For example, if a young child is constantly late for soccer practice, she may have to sit on the bench for part of the next game, and so be it. If an older child misses the bus and you have to drop her off at school, let her explain why she is late.
Will collaboration pay off in the end?
Yes, says Ms. Cathcart-Ross. “It’s a democratic process, and it sets a wonderful foundation for children when they know they have a forum in which to work, with their parents, to solve problems.”