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Get the training in early

Last updated 16:46 19/05/2014

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Getting the family's weekday started can be stressful enough without having the kids dragging the chain. Even the youngest school-age child is quite capable of doing most of the things needed to be ready on time. Get the training in while they're young.

You'll have an optimum time by which you know they have to be out of bed - be generous with the time you give yourself for a start. And you'll have a list of things you know they can do by themselves. Sit down with them, talk the list through and put it on paper from the get-up time, through cleaning teeth to checking they have their sports gear and lunch or lunch money in their bag.

When my neighbour's kids were "in training" she put the list on a whiteboard and each item was ticked off once completed - it got them well settled into the necessary routine in about three weeks.

Check out what the competition to being ready on time might be - their phone (perhaps not at this age), the computer, television perhaps? Don't allow them on before school. Your nagging? Yes, that can be a problem, too; constant reminders can actually be counter-productive and slow the process.

When the kids don't have to take responsibility themselves and rely on you, why should they bother? Especially if it means that you can be guaranteed to do some of the required preparations for them. Kids aren't stupid.

In the end, natural consequences have to come into play and the sooner the better. Breakfast half-eaten by departure time - too bad. Forgot to put lunch or sports gear in school bag - too bad. Don't start a regular forgotten items delivery service. Occasionally, we all genuinely forget things and you'll need to make the call on this, depending on the circumstances and the pattern of recurrence.

If they're old enough to make their own lunches (and why shouldn't they, especially by 11 or 12) have them make them the night before and pop them in the fridge. Not fully dressed - well, finish getting dressed in the car - difficult with the seat belt on, but easy once you're stopped outside the school!

Make sure the routine and consequences are fully discussed before you start and then stick to them. If you're not starting from the beginning, so to speak, but attempting to break old habits, it will take some time and some frustration and even tantrums (hopefully, not from you) before things start to go smoothly.

Once that starts to happen, you'll have reduced the morning stress level and introduced the broader skills of time management. Be aware that a refresher course might be called for when they hit 14.

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© Ian Munro 2014. All rights reserved.

- The Timaru Herald


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