Always Late

Some people are always late. Children, teens and adults can all be afflicted with the lateness syndrome. If you are always late, cure YOURSELF before trying to cure your child. However, if you’re a prompt parent dealing with an always-late child, consider the following tips:

There Are Many Reasons for Arriving Late
First, let’s differentiate between “excuses” and “reasons.” When a child says she was late for school because her alarm didn’t go off, she is giving an excuse. Blaming traffic, weather conditions, alarm clocks, losing things and so on does not actually explain late behavior – these are all excuses. A reason for lateness is a statement that actuallyexplains why the person is late. For instance, “I didn’t allow enough time for bad traffic conditions,” explains why traffic conditions caused the person to be late. There’s ALWAYS traffic conditions! Why does that make some people late while other people are still on time? Because some people allow enough time for things to go wrong and some people leave themselves no “wiggle room” for ordinary life events. Similarly, weather conditions happen all the time. Failing to allow for weather is what causes only some people to be late while others are still on time. In other words, people who arrive on time understand and utilize the principles of time management whether or not they are doing so consciously. They know that you have to allow for “unforeseen events” every time you make an appointment to be somewhere. If unforeseen events don’t happen, they’ll arrive a little early. They can prepare for that eventuality planning for it – bringing some reading material, handheld devices or whatever, to keep busy for a few minutes before the appointed time arrives. Chronically late people don’t want to wait. Therefore they leave at the last minute so that they’ll arrive “just on time.” This does not allow for the necessary “wiggle time” – they will be late a lot of the time.

There Are No Consequences for Arriving Late
If the school does not give detentions or other immediate punishments for being late, children may not feel that they need to be on time. Or, if the detention period isn’t unpleasant, then the child may not care that he or she received a punishment. Schools who are serious about having kids turn up on time, need to have serious consequences for failure to do so. Similarly, parents may need kids to be ready to leave the house at a certain time so that the parents can leave for work. Dawdlers and late risers can pose a threat to the parent’s job responsibilities. A child who causes the parent to be late because of his or her own slowpoke behavior, needs to suffer appropriate consequences. Use the 2X-Rule (explained in detail in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe). Tell the child that if he or she makes you late in the future then there will be a specific punishment (name what that will be). Be consistent in enforcing the negative consequence and be sure that the consequence you are choosing is a true deterrent for the child.

Consider Specific Disabilities That Make Time Management Hard
There are various neurological deficits that can make time management hard for a child. Some children just can’t accurately judge the passage of time. Twenty minutes may pass while the child experiences it as if only a few minutes went by. Or the child figures it will take her minutes to put on clothes and make-up whereas it never takes her less than 25 minutes for the task. Some kids can’t judge how long it will take to dress, eat breakfast, clean up and get ready for the bus, despite the fact that they must do it every day. Keep in mind that many adults have the same problem! If your child has conceptual difficulties around time, he or she will need extra help. SIt down with the youngster and ask him or her to make guesses of how long each task takes. The next day actually time each tastk. If the child is overor underestimated, discuss the differnces. Help the child make a more realistic schedule and have him or her check off the times that are actually required for each task. Close monitoring for a few days may reveal a few “leaks” in the system – just a couple of places where more time must be realistically allotted.

Accidental Reinforcement
Sometimes a child gets a lot of attention for being late. A parent might call him, scold him, encourage him, help him, and otherwise be all over him all morning long to make sure he is moving on time. This can be a lot of attention! Children sometimes enjoy all the “help” and attention they get from their parents around the issue of arriving on time. Even if this attention is unpleasant (scolding, reprimanding, threatening and punishing), the child might “enjoy” it, because negative attention is better than no attention at all. So be careful to check your own behavior to ensure that you are not talking to the child a lot in order to help him or her be ready on time. Stop the reminders, the assistance, the threatening and all the other attention. Go have your own breakfast and relax. The child will probably beg for attention in the beginning, so you must be firm in your resolve not to give it. After awhile, the child will realize that no more attention is coming and he or she will begin to act more normally.

Arrives Late

Does your child have a tendency to arrive late to his or her commitments? Whatever reason your child may have for tardiness, it’s important that as parents, you don’t take the behavior lightly. Occasional lateness can easily grow into a pervasive negative attitude about time and punctuality. The sooner you can wean kids out of a tendency for arriving late, the faster you can instill more appropriate behavior.

If your child has a tendency to arrive late, consider the following questions:

Is Your Child Motivated? 
Lack of motivation can be a factor in chronic tardiness. For example, a child who is always late for school may be a child who finds school boring, demanding or just plain awful. A child who is interested in the lessons and the classroom environment, on the other hand, can’t wait to get to class! If you feel that lack of motivation is behind your child’s tardiness, then consider ways to make things more interesting for them. It may be possible to arrange a meeting with teachers. Or it may be possible to give your child a reason to arrive early (i.e. more time to play with the new electronic device you just bought him).

Is Your Child Disorganized and Forgetful?
Consider the possibility that your child can use some help in arranging and systematizing his or her schedule. Not knowing where things are, forgetting appointments and schedules, and scrambling to get ready can all be causes for habitual tardiness. Get your child a calendar as well as a to-do list. Help him or her remember commitments through occasional reminders. And instill the habit of checking the night before if everything is ready for a trip. Adequate preparation can go a long way in cutting tardiness among young people.

Does Your Child Respect People’s Time?
Some children, especially teenagers, are prone to arriving late because they don’t value the time of the people they are about to meet. Perhaps they are confident that the other person will wait —- an event can’t start without everyone present, right? Or maybe they just don’t care if the people waiting for them get offended or annoyed. If this is the case, then it’s best parents teach children how important time is to a lot of people. In the same way that they don’t want their own time wasted, neither should they waste other people’s time.

Does Your Child Underestimate Preparation and Travel Time?
Some children are sincere in their desire to come on schedule. The problem is, they have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare or to travel to a location. For example, they may feel that travel time is just 15 minutes when in fact it’s 30 minutes! If this is the case, then teach your child to be more realistic about their time projections. It would also help to always put a comfortable allowance when setting schedules to account for unexpected turn of events like heavy traffic.

Is Your Child a Conformist?
It sometimes happens that your every lesson on punctuality at home gets negated by a peer group who is always late. Kids don’t want to be the overeager beaver in class – it’s just not cool! If your child is developing a habit towards lateness due to peer pressure, then it’s best to teach him the importance of making decisions based on personal values. Peer pressure may feel very powerful, but it cannot overwhelm a child who values his own mind. Reinforce the positive side of being unique and living according to your principles.

Use Effective Rewards or Punishments
Show your child that YOU value promptness by rewarding prompt behavior or punishing lateness. In the “real world” people can lose their jobs for showing up late. At home, they can lose their privileges. In the real world, prompt behavior is acknowledged in positive work reviews and recommendations. At home, it can earn privileges. Put your money where your mouth is: show your child that you really care about time matters by backing up your words with your actions.

Dawdlers

Some kids take forever to get moving. They take their sweet time getting up in the morning and must be reminded ten times before completing any given task. They take an hour or so getting a small sandwich down! And just when you think that they’re dressed and ready to go, they’re glued to the TV screen, wearing no shirt and only one sock on, begging for 5 more minutes. Dawdlers drive their parents mad. Unfortunately, the morning rush just won’t wait – school starts at 9. The evening schedule presents its own demands and deadlines – homework, dinner, bath & bed. . Yet dawdlers are oblivious, taking their own sweet time, moving in their own little universe. What can parents do to decrease dawdler-induced stress?

If you have a child who drags his or her feet in the morning or at other times, consider the following tips:

Helping Your Dawdler
Particularly, with young dawdlers, it’s fine for parents to gently move the child along – hand the child his shirt, point him toward the kitchen table and so on. Younger children might respond to incentives or races. Some dawdlers are “spacey” (and might benefit from an assessment to make sure that ADD or some other type of challenge, isn’t at play). If the child is otherwise healthy, the Bach Flower Remedy Clematis can help increase focus and decrease spaciness, leading to a reduction in dawdling behaviors. If the child is easily distracted from his focus, the Bach Remedy Chestnut Bud can be helpful. (You can learn more about Bach Flowers online or throughout this site). If you need to insist on performance (for instance, the carpool ride is coming and the child MUST be ready on time), use a fair form of quiet discipline such as the 2X-Rule (see below and in more detail in the book Raise  Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe).

Use Positive Strategies
Instead of nagging and yelling, parents can use positive strategies to help their slow-poke youngsters. While nagging and yelling can greatly harm the parent-child relationship and even increase mental health problems for kids, good-feeling techniques can strengthen the parent-child bond and facilitate healthy development while encouraging more appropriate, timely behavior.

Positive attention itself is one such strategy. As a child is moving (ever so slowly), a parent can NOTICE and ACKNOWLEDGE progress. For instance, the parent can say, “I see you’ve got one sock on. That’s a great start.” Every time the child completes a step of his morning routine, the parent can give this sort of positive attention. On the other hand, the parent should refrain from talking to the child about his slow behavior. For instance, when the child is moving slowly, the parent should NOT say, “Hurry up – you’re moving too slowly.” Rather, the parent should wait until he or she can make a positive comment.

Positive reinforcement can also be used. If the child happens to have completed a step in a timely fashion, the parent can offer a concrete reward. “I see you’ve finished brushing your teeth before 7:30 – that means there’s time for me to give you that special breakfast treat I bought for you.” Of course, any reward can be offered, such as an extra few minutes to watch T.V., a story, a game, a kiss or any privilege. When rewarding a timely step, the parent needs to ignore other aspects of dawdling. This means that the child might still be running late but has received a reward for being on time in the early part of the schedule. The trick here is to ignore slow and late behavior and only give attention and rewards to timely and prompt behavior.

The CLeaR Method (Comment, Label, Reward) can be very helpful as well. For instance: when your child is on task, make a positive comment (“I see you’re getting dressed!”). Then offer a positive label for the behavior (“You’re a fast mover this morning!”). Finally, offer a small reward (“I think you deserve an extra treat in your lunch.”). The label “fast mover” can be very helpful in building a healthier concept of your child as a person who CAN move efficiently. Be sure to NEVER use negative labels such as “slow poke,” “dawdler,” and so on. In fact, don’t talk about “dawdling” at all – never use the words “dawdle,” “dawdler,” or “dawdling.” The CLeaR Method is explained in full in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Consequences
Setting time limits can help reduce dawdling behavior. Limit setting can be accomplished with the ‘“2X Rule.” The first step of this rule is to give the time limit: “You have until 7:45 to brush your own hair.” Then, just before the deadline, repeat the limit and name the consequence: “It’s almost 7:45 sweetie – if your hair isn’t brushed in another minute, I’ll have to come and give it a quick brush for you.”  Even if the child would be angry, the parent would gently, kindly but quickly brush the hair if necessary. A steady rule can also be employed such as “From now on, if your hair isn’t brushed by 7:45, I’ll have to come in and give it a quick brush.” Such a rule can be employed for any deadline, varying the consequences: toothbrushing, bedmaking, eating, being at the door in time. The consequences must be delivered quietly, without any fuss, anger or upset. “You haven’t got any more time to make your bed, so I’ll be making it this morning and you’ll lose your T.V. show tonight (or whatever consequence you have pre-arranged with the child). When first introducing consequences to a dawdler, only concentrate on one deadline. After it is established, you can pick a second on and so on. The key to using consequences effectively is to let the consequence teach  the lesson, rather than using anger, lecturing and so forth (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for a detailed explanation on the constructive use of consequences using the 2X Rule).

Consider Possible Reasons for Lethargy
If your child has a tendency to move too slowly on a regular basis, not just during the morning rush, then consider possible medical and psychological reasons for lethargic behavior. For example, your child may lack energy and needs a carbohydrate boost. Or your child might be suffering from depression. Sometimes apparent dawdlers are really obsessors and ritualizers. If your child is taking too long because she does things over and over again to get them “just right” then a professional assessment can help you determine whether anxiety might be the culprit. If so, there are good treatments that can help put an end to the problem. If you suspect that your child’s dawdling is due to more than a bad habit, do consult your pediatrician or a child psychologist.

Can’t Get Up in the Morning

Lots of kids have trouble waking up in the morning – especially teenagers. However, youngsters are supposed to be in school by 9 a.m. in most places. Some localities have actually changed the starting time of school to 10 a.m. for adolescents because so many kids in this age group are still groggy at 9! No matter what time school starts, many parents have to leave the house early in the morning so they can get to work on time. For this reason alone, they may need their kids to get up bright and early.

If your child has trouble getting up in the morning, consider the following tips:

Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to the Amount of Sleep Your Child Got
Unsurprisingly, if a child doesn’t get enough sleep, he or she will simply be too tired to get up when the alarm goes off. A lot of kids – and maybe ALL teenagers – go to bed too late. Nowadays, with the constant hum and beep of computers and cell phones, kids stay up to all hours. They’re always “on” and don’t know how to turn off. Of course they’re exhausted!

Getting your child to sleep on time is critical to getting him or her to wake up easily in the morning. Make firm rules about bedtime. Help your child settle down in the half hour before bed by prohibiting stimulating activities like computer games and action movies. Quiet time for bath, stories and tucking in should start long enough before the target bedtime so that the child can be closing his or her eyes at the actual bedtime. Teens, too, need limits around bedtime. Computers and cell phones can be OFF in the twenty minutes before bed. Shower, quiet reading and into bed by bedtime can be the rule for your teenager as well as for your younger child. Failure to comply can cost privileges like use of the family car (“Sorry – I can’t let you drive the car on so little sleep”), allowance, and so on. (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for ideas on how to design effective and appropriate negative consequences.)

Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to the Quality of Sleep Your Child Got
Some kids are in bed on time and theoretically sleeping the correct number of hours, yet they are exhausted upon awakening. They can’t drag themselves out of bed. This can happen when the quality of sleep has been impaired. Illness such as ear infections, colds, flu’s and certain chronic physical health conditions (such as sleep apnea!) can affect the quality of sleep. Medications as well as illegal drugs and alcohol may cause morning exhaustion. Chronic mental health conditions such as ADD/ADHD., Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, depression, bipolar depression, and anxiety can impair sleep. Stress and trauma can impair sleep as well.

See your pediatrician for help in addressing the physical conditions that interfere with restful sleep. Your naturopath, herbalist, Bach Flower therapist, reflexologist or other alternative practitioner might also be able to help. Similarly, have your child’s emotional health assessed and treated by a qualified mental health practitioner. You might also be able to find CD’s for children’s sleep issues to help them get a better quality of sleep.

Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to Power Struggles between Parent and Child
Many parents get pretty worked up in the morning. When their child doesn’t immediately jump out of bed, the parents feel irritated, then annoyed and finally enraged. The child accidentaly discovers a way to passively “get back” at parents. The child can see how easy it is to make Mom and/or Dad “go crazy” in the morning and it’s sort of fun to get them to disintegrate this way! The child may not consciously be trying to provoke parents, but people who are relatively powerless (like kids) do love to discover that they have some power after all!

If your child is getting enough sleep but is unresponsive in the morning, TAKE YOURSELF out of the equation. DON’T be your child’s alarm clock! Instead, get a really loud or effective alarm clock (there are many new ones on the market that do all kinds of neat things to force the child to get out of bed). Try to find a clock WITHOUT a snooze alarm. Children who use the snooze feature can often turn it off a dozen times without getting out of bed! Putting the alarm out of arm’s reach can help address this problem as well. If the child has to get out of bed and climb on a stool to turn the thing off, it is less likely that he’ll fall right back asleep. Be sure not to “help” the alarm by also trying to wake up the child. If the child senses your annoyance in the morning, chances are higher that the problem will persist for a long time. Help yourself stay relaxed by being busy in the morning with other activities. Just be too busy to notice that your child is still in bed.

A completely different approach to ending morning power struggles is to be humorous and playful in the morning with your child. Sometimes coming into the child’s room with a joke book and sitting and reading it aloud for a few minutes, is enough to encourage the child to get out of bed in a good mood, ready to start the day. Or, perhaps giving your child a foot massage (only if the child likes this sort of thing), may help him or her start the day in a relaxed and positive mood.

Trouble Waking Up can be Related to a Lack of Real Consequences
Some kids attend schools that do not immediately punish tardiness. Eventually there may be a number of “late days” marked on the quarterly report card. But who cares? On the other hand, when a school gives an immediate punishment for arriving late (like an after-school detention), children work hard to be there on time. Of course, some parents drive the child to school in order to help the child avoid the consequences of being late; such a practice encourages difficulty getting up in the morning. If the school doesn’t have a policy about immediate punishment, it may be possible to take up this isdea with the classroom teacher. The teacher may be able to let you know on a daily basis whether the child was late and you may be able to construct a punishment at home (a consequence that happens every time the child is reported to be late) or the teacher may be able to suggest a punishment that will occur in school.

Help Create a Morning Atmosphere
It may help to change the night atmosphere of the room to a day atmosphere. Open the curtains and the window – let in some fresh air. Turn on the lights. Turn on the computer if there is one, and put some music on. For younger kids (or teens if they have given you permission), pull back the top layer of blankets so that the child isn’t so warm and cuddly. Start chatting to the child in an upbeat, friendly way.

Offer Incentives
It may be possible for you to offer the child incentives for waking up independently and on time. For instance, chocolate milk may be allowed if the child got up by himself or after the first call. Or, a child might be able to earn cash prizes for each cooperative morning wake-up. Or, the child may be able to earn “points” or “stars” and after accumlating a target number, then earn a gift that he or she would not have gotten otherwise.

Teach Your Child How to Set His or Her Internal Alarm
Teach your child to set an alarm clock and then to tell his or her brain to wake up 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. All the child has to do is send this instruction to his or her mind while in a relaxed state. Tell the child to picture the time on the clock that he or she wants to get up at. The child should see the time and picture him or herself getting out of bed then. Make this a game or a challenge. Let the child know it can take some days before the brain catches on, but it WILL catch on. Right now, the child’s brain is actually programmed to get up late!