One of the most stressful parts of raising tweens and teens is the daily battle to get them to school on time. As Circle of Moms member Courtney J. laments, "My 13-year-old daughter misses the bus every day. Then she yells and throws fits about being late. I don't have a clue how to make her get on the bus and get to school on time.” And even if you do, you have to navigate a heaping helping of morning grouchiness. Molly M.'s 15-year-old son is so unbearable in the mornings that she has begun to dread them.
Here, Circle of Moms members offer 7 insights and tips that will help you get your sleepy child to her desk in time for the morning bell.
1. Use alarm clocks in unexpected ways
Getting your child out of bed and en route to school on time is especially challenging to moms of teens and tweens because when kids reach this stage, they are wired to sleep late. Yes, that's right: with all those growth-spurt-inducing hormones coursing through their veins, they need the extra zzzzz’s. As Circle of Moms Sabrina H. observes, “Those hormones demand sleep don’t they." But that unfortunately doesn't change the fact that kids need to get to school on time.
Sabrina suggests using more than one alarm clock, and placing them on opposite sides of the bedroom "so she has to get up" to deal with "the annoying buzz."
Sometimes, the trick to getting a tween or teen out of bed on time is exactly that, a trick. Lynda M. suggests "setting their clocks a half hour later." That way, by the time your child "realizes what you did" she will be further along in her routine.
2. Become a wake-up drill sergeant
The best — if not the most pleasant — way to get your child on the move is to become a wake up drill sergeant. Aramanth D. and her daughters worked out a plan together, one that begins with setting the alarm to go off 30 early. Then, Amaranth goes in and calls them "15 minutes after the alarm goes off," followed by turning on their bedroom light after another ten minutes, and finally letting them know they only have five minutes left "to get out of bed and ready for the day."
Some moms resort to ruder awakenings: while Mandy E. thinks pulling off the covers is a little too much, she recommends removing the pillow from under your child's sleepy head, opening the blinds to let the sun shine in, and when that doesn't work, opening the window "to let the room chill for a minute."
Then there's Amanda R.'s suggestion: ringing some cow bells.
3. Insist your child take responsibility
Though some moms take the onus of responsibility for getting their kids to school on time onto themselves, others feel that it should be up to the tween or teen. “Let her figure it out,” says Barbilee H. "She is 13, she knows how to tell time. It is not your job to make sure she gets on the bus, let her know that. Yes, you are the parent and yes you can support her. But, if she misses it, make sure she makes other arrangements. Have her take responsibility. Teach her to be accountable now and she will thank you for it later."
One way to help kids learn responsibility is to establish rules that have real consequences. Jennifer L. suggests explaining to your child that if the procrastinating doesn't end, you will take away something she values, like her Facebook privilege, or her cell phone.
Both Alana L. and Linda C. believe that kids should be made to face the natural consequences of habitual lateness. Alana explains, "Since this is a habit, you should not help her out. When you come to her rescue, it reinforces the behavior. When she is late, she will have to answer to teachers and will have to make up the time at school. . . ." And Linda C. suggests the most obvious of natural consequences: insisting that your child walk to school when she misses the bus.
4. Collaborate on a new routine
Many Circle of Moms members feel that parents have to be careful not to enable their kids' poor behavior and habits. “I know this is going to be hard to learn, but you are in the enabling model now,” says Jude in reference to moms who make excuses for their habitually late tweens and teens. "Start with a list of rules printed out and posted in the hallway (poster sized and numbered) for your home and your expectations. Have a family meeting that explains these rules and the consequences, and then stick to them strongly."
Amaranth found the family meeting approach helpful Her 14- and 15-year-old daughters "find it very hard to get up in the mornings," so she sat down with them and worked out a plan, which included pinpointing "the latest they could get up" and still be ready for school on time.
Part of Circle of Moms member Molly M.'s plan with her 15-year-old son is an earlier bedtime.
5. Prepare for school the night before
Amaranth suggests encouraging your kids to get as much of their morning routines done the night before. To battle morning lateness, her girls now "do things to make their mornings easier - for instance, they lay out their clothes (school uniforms required at their school) so that they don't have to search for anything in the morning, it's all there for them. They also shower or have a bath at night, that way they can just do a quick wash in the morning and be ready to go without having to factor in showering and drying hair.”
6. Get the school involved
Some Circle of Moms members say that sometimes moms need to reach out to the teachers and school administration to ask for help in reinforcing the rules and for help in getting their teens to school on time. “I had to bring it to the school's attention and ask for their help,” says Tara H. “They read her the riot act, and issued a suspension (one day) in hopes that it would get through to her. My daughter believed she was 'above' riding in a bus. Now she either rides her bus, or has another mom drive her."
7. Figure out what’s causing the stalling
If all else fails, it could be that here's a hidden reason for your child's stalling, and as Circle of Moms member Brenda B. points out, it's worth investigating. Kids who are being taunted by a bully, either on the school bus or at school, are likely to resist the morning rush to get to either place. “Ask her why she doesn’t want to ride the bus. Is [stalling or procrastinating] a habit in her life in other areas? . . .It will take some time the night before but it may make the mornings smoother."
How do you get your child to school on time?
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