I hate the discourtesy of being late. I hate running from place to place. I hate to keep people waiting. With three little ones in tow (ages 2, 4 and 6), though, it kind of comes with the territory.
But does it have to? These are some of the tools I’ve tried in my endeavor to avoid tardies at school, hold down a full-time job, keep stress and tears at bay, and even enjoy going about our day together. (Full disclosure: We don’t have this subject mastered, but we are committed to keep trying!)
[Related: Purge alert! Enlist the kids in sorting and donating unwanted stuff]
When kids are very young and have no concept of time or the workings of a clock, you need a different mechanism to help them gauge how long they have to complete tasks. There are some good countdown apps that can provide the visual assistance they need, and in an entertaining way. We use Tico Timer, with its disappearing shapes or diminishing circles easing the transitions from home to daycare and daycare to school.
Play 'Beat the Clock'
As youngsters get older and become more interested in mastering telling the time, you could try instigating a "Beat the Clock" game. A traditional timepiece with hands and a child-friendly face makes this a more appealing activity. A little competition can be a successful motivator, and you can't beat the euphoria of starting the day off on the right foot.
Giving family members superhero alter egos that can be called upon during the morning madness can be an imaginative way to generate the positive results you’re seeking. Task your team with accepting a mission: Operation Dash to School. After all, who’s heard of a superhero that doesn’t want to zoom into action?
Implementing roleplay can provide some relief from always being the parent-in-charge, doling out instructions only to have them questioned. Children pretty quickly determine the steps that need to happen in order to get out the door or to prepare for bed. Have a kids takeover day and allow them the opportunity to play teacher (with a little guidance, of course).
As children get bigger they are able to take on their own chores. Creating task lists for each member of the household can be effective. Have specific morning and evening to-dos and utilize stickers or colored pens for a more tempting check-off. My daughter created “to-do” and “done” chore jars at Girl Scouts, which has provided some motivation for taking greater ownership of what she needs to accomplish.
In our household, we continue our love-hate relationship with time but are always seeking that timely perfection nirvana. While a routine is helpful for kids so that they know what they need to do and when, having a few tricks up your sleeve can help keep them moving, or provide some much-needed motivation when the going gets tough.