The first few weeks of the kids being back at school are always hectic. But after that initial rush of enthusiasm, things can start slowing down. Standards start slipping. Kids start being late. So, how do we pep up the back-to-school routine?
Parenting coach Leslie Josel is a firm believer in daily rituals and says they will serve kids well long after they’ve left school. The author of Order Out of Chaos suggests trying these lesser-known tips for keeping everyone on schedule.
1Hang clocks everywhere
Josel says children can only grasp the concept of time if they can see it. She suggests hanging analogue clocks in every room to help them understand.
“Here is my mantra: If your child cannot see time, they can’t learn to manage it,” explains Josel. “That whole morning war on getting you out of the door on time is going to be lost on them if they can’t see time.”
2Use ‘billboards’ to keep them on track
Get some outsize sticky notes or make signs with regular paper. On each one, write the time you want your child to finish a particular task. Then hang them next to the clock in the relevant room. Josel says this helps to teach kids to manage their time in a fun and energetic way.
3Stay in one place
Families tend to spread throughout the house. This can disrupt routines, making tasks disjointed – and ruining your time management.
Josel suggests putting everything your child needs in one room, so they have no reason to go anywhere else. Get everything ready the night before – and that includes food, clothes, schoolbooks, and toiletries.
“If you spend most of your time in the kitchen, then there should be a toothbrush in there, a hairbrush in there, toothpaste,” she says.
4Give up some control
Letting kids have some say in their morning routine can help keep them to time. So take a deep breath and let go of the small stuff.
If they want to put their coats on before they eat breakfast, or eat standing up, let them. Josel says your goal is to get them out of the door on time. As long as that happens, and they’re ready and have everything they need with them, you can compromise on some of the details.
5Move the alarms
Place alarms so that older children and teenagers have to get out of bed to switch them off. Don’t try anything that sounds too pleasant either, says Josel. Alarms shouldn’t be gentle, musical or have a ‘snooze’ option; get one that’s loud, intrusive and guaranteed to wake them up straight away.
6Keep it positive
You don’t want the kids to feel mornings are a military operation – even if they are! Play music to help them stay motived and calm. You could introduce a fun element too, such as challenging them to get dressed by the time a song ends.
“Music engages our brains. It helps us initiate and plan,” says Josel. “It sends an energy into the household that it’s time to get up and get energised and moving.”
She says parents should know exactly how much time children need to get ready in the mornings. If they don’t, she suggests a few trial days where they time each task to help them plan properly.
“You would be surprised how many parents go, ‘Ok, we’ve got 45 minutes.’ But it really takes your child an hour to move through the morning,” she adds.