Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to get teens to school on time (and secretly have fun doing it)

I have two teens that both go to the same middle school. Every morning was the same routine. Wake them up. Wake them up again when they fall back asleep. They would eat breakfast like they were on vacation and putter around without a care about time. I stressed and nagged, reminding them how much time they had left to brush their teeth, comb their hair, get their band instruments, get forms signed, etc. I gave countdown warnings every 5 minutes like I was launching a space shuttle. The ride to school was spent lecturing them on the importance of punctuality, responsibility, and accountability. I lectured. They tuned out. By the time we got to school, everyone was mad at each other. This lovely routine repeated itself Monday thru Friday. Sound familiar?

Then it dawned on me that they didn't have to worry about the time because I was handling that for them. I had taken on the stress of worrying about what time it was and making sure they were ready to leave. They weren’t relying on themselves to be ready, they were relying on ME! And I created it.

So I fired myself.

I announced one evening that since my nagging wasn't fun for any of us, I would no longer nag them about getting ready for school. I would not tell them what time to wake up or remind them when they had to leave for school. I wouldn’t ask them if they had lunch money or needed me to sign anything. They could own it all and they should just come get me when they were ready to leave. I had them at “no more nagging”.

So morning rolls around. I get myself up and enjoy a nice cup of tea while I wait for the morning to unfold. If I can hold myself together and stay strong, this might actually be fun. School starts at 7:35am and we usually leave by 7:15am. By 7:20, they were still lounging on the couch discussing their favorite episode of MythBusters. I sat on the couch and pretended to read a magazine (I was really biting my lip and sneaking glances at the clock). They continued to chat until one of then looked up at the clock and noticed the time, now 7:25. I believe the response was "CRAP!". I actually enjoyed the stunned look on their faces and the confused glances they threw my way. "Shouldn't we be leaving now?". "Really?”, I ask, in my most innocent, loving voice. “Are you sure I don't have time to read one more page?". They raced around like madmen and I felt secretly guilty that they were actually stressed about being late for school!

As a side note, I had called the school earlier that morning to let them know what I was doing. I said the kids might be late and if they were, it was NOT an excused lateness. This way, the kids had natural consequences from the school, not me.

We pulled up to the school at 7:35am and they were opening the doors before I had even fully stopped the car. I admit I enjoyed this a little too much. It took three frantic, panic-stricken mornings (for them, not me) before they got it. But when they got it, they got it. If there was no one to take on making sure they were ready to go, and no one to protect them from getting in trouble with the school, the only person left to own it was them. I am so proud of my boys. They now get up on their own, gather their things, and come to me when they are all ready to go. I am happier. They are happier. Life is not perfect by any means, but its one less thing we fight about and one more thing they know how to do on their own.

Now don’t get me wrong. This sounds easier than it was in real life. No parent wants their child to get in trouble nor does it make us happy when our kids suffer. But we are not doing them any favors when we do for them what they clearly can do for themselves. Saving them from owning their own problems creates victims. Helping them learn they have the power to solve their own problems creates self-reliance and confidence that will serve them the rest of their lives.


Anonymous said...

Geeze! That definitely sounds like my house! I get tired of being crabby every morning! I wonder if it's a boy thing? lol!

Terra said...

I caught myself smiling and giggling all the way through this post! PERFECTION - I say...

has it stuck? are they owning more? I think this was brilliant...might even slim down a version of it with my 8 year old not for before school but for other things!

If you don't mind I think this is exactly the type of thing my post is asking for help with...please take a minute to read it and consider filling out the survey link (it is SUPER short) and would be a big help to my long time family friends organization!

I am so off to forward this post to about 10 ppl I know will love it!

Holly K said...

Thanks for the comments! I would be happy to read your blog and fill out the survey. I'm assuming the survey is on your blog so I'll go there. Thanks for forwarding the post! So glad it made you smile. I think parents of teens need every opportunity to laugh or we'd go crazy!

Katy said...

OOh I love this! It would drive me nuts too,sitting there pretending to read a magazine wondering when they were (finally)going to realize that it's time! I don't have teens yet (my 5-month old has a long way to go until then), but this was just great. I hope I remember this when she's a teenager.

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly stopping by to say hello!- great meeting with you today! Hope you didn't get lost on the way back Beckie

Veronica Lee said...

Hi, I'm visiting from MBC. Great blog.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Brilliant, I say. I may steal this when my little ones are tweeny.

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