So what does the typical school morning look like in your house? Quiet conversation over a leisurely breakfast, everyone dressed and ready to depart on time, all their books, papers and lunch neatly packed and ready to go? No? Not quite? More like a minor riot with lots of stress? If so, it’s time for a change.
There’s no magic way to guarantee that the bedlam that marks those getting ready for school times in too many homes will totally disappear, but there are steps to take to help minimize the school-morning frustration, stress and anger.
Parents can start by not blaming their children for all the problems. Instead, they can make it clear that they’re not happy with how they’re acting with all that yelling and lecturing virtually every day. Parents can tell their children they want to change and they need their help in making it happen.
An important step is to give the children more responsibility. A kitchen timer, for example, is a great way to help young children finish that breakfast with time left to get dressed for school. For older children, let them use an alarm clock, maybe on their phone, and have them agree to a “no-snooze-alarm” rule.
For both younger and older children there have to be consequences, discussed and agreed to ahead of time, if they don’t stick to the time rules. They give up a favorite something if they slide back into the old ways. And parents also need to set a consequence for themselves if they flip back into yelling and nagging to get their children moving.
Make changes to move things along faster. No morning TV for starters and that cellphone can wait until after breakfast and getting dressed before it becomes the center of their lives.
Being more organized will also help. Have a designated place for backpacks and school books, and make sure they’re in place before bedtime. School clothes get laid out the night before. Have a special inbox for school papers that need to be signed. If a child forgets to put the papers there after school, consequences should kick in.
There’s no perfect cure to school morning craziness, but making the children shoulder more of the responsibility and giving them a system to help make things more organized cannot only make that morning rush more civilized, but it can also provide skills that will help them throughout life.
Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.