You’ve been tapping your foot all morning. “We’re going to be late!” you announce, but your daughter keeps primping her hair, your son starts another round of foosball with his little brother, and none of them have brushed their teeth yet. If this sounds like your household in the morning, it’s time to talk to your kids about punctuality. As kids get older, there will be more and more situations where they’ll need to show up at a certain place at a certain time. These tips will make sure they show up on time.
First, make sure you’re on time yourself. If you’re ever late, don’t make excuses. Explain that your lateness was inexcusable, that it showed selfishness and a lack of respect. This kind of profuse apology might seem like overkill, but trust us: your kids will remember every time you were ever late – in vivid detail – if you start nagging them about punctuality.
Nagging is no good. Try buying them a watch instead. Both analog and digital watches have their benefits: digital is easier to read; analog is easier to get a sense of how time passes. The sooner kids can tell time, the sooner you can hold them accountable for being on time.
The next step is to schedule one event at a very specific time every day: dinner, for example. If kids know they absolutely must show up for dinner at 6:00 PM – or no dessert – they’ll learn pretty quickly how to keep track of their time. Try not to call out “Almost dinner time!” at 5:55 either; let kids figure it out independently.
For older kids, more drastic measures may be necessary. If they’re persistently late, and their excuses are getting more and more implausible, it might be a deeper issue. Be sure to talk seriously with your kid about how their lateness makes you feel, and also try to discern whether it’s symptomatic of a deeper lack of respect. Without being confrontational, ask them exactly what they were doing that prevented them from being on time. If they answer honestly, they’ll realize that the things they were doing were probably not worth being late – and disrespecting you – over. If they can admit this, they’ll be less likely to be late again.
Like most things you teach your kids, positive reinforcement is also a good trick to get results. Try adding up the minutes when kids are early, and doling out treats based on these amounts. Or, let’s say your kids want to go to a really hyped-up concert. Show them how you have to be early to get the best tickets: take them with you when you stand on line, and be sure to bring snacks and entertainment for the long wait. When concert time rolls around, and you’re all living it up in the front row, your kids will realize that sometimes punctuality…rocks!