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Punctuality Without Pain


Make being punctual a family value that communicates the message “I respect you and care about you” in any situation, but particularly the school day. “I care about teachers who have gotten up and come in early to set up the classrooms.” “I care about classmates who arrive on time and join the harmonious rhythm of the day.”


Children and parents can collaborate on the goal of being punctual in ways that promote connection and set the stage for a happy day. Make “Our family gets places right on time” your motto.

Getting out the door in the morning without nagging, power struggles, and tears can be a major accomplishment, and arguments can leave us feeling defeated before we even drop a child off – “Get your shoes on” “Where is your homework?” “Don’t dawdle, we have to go.” Often the same roadblocks occur every day and appear not to have a resolution. Here are some tips for creating morning routines that emphasize connection and collaboration.


Start the day with connections. Cuddle for a few minutes. Read a story.


Create incentives for leaving on time.If you get dressed by 7:45, we have time to play a game or read a story, or we can plan to go to a park after school.” “If our family is out the door by 8 every day for a week, we’re going to reward ourselves with a fun activity that everyone loves.”


Avoid giving attention to dawdling, moving slowly, being distracted or defiant or in a bad mood. Children will escalate any behavior that you give attention to, often making them into power struggles that siphon off your energy. Try to reframe your perspective to notice ways they are showing independence in getting ready or cooperating with your group punctuality goal. “I notice you picked out your clothes before I even asked you.”


Offer recognition for independence, following routines, and listening. “You already got your backpack ready!”


Start cooperating the night before to make mornings flow easily. Working together to plan for the next day creates connection and an expectation that mornings will involve positive cooperation.

  • Pick out foods your child would like for lunch the next day and collaborate on putting it together.

  • Lay out clothes for the next day.

  • Set the table for breakfast.

  • Gather homework papers and any forms that need to be taken to school.


Substitute music for screen time. Watching TV even for a short time distracts children from feeling motivated to be part of the morning’s positive flow. It pulls them into another world, and they often feel angry when they have to leave it, even if they have agreed to time limits previously.

Music can energize the whole family, and children feel empowered when they get to choose what music to play at home or in the car.


Look forward to playing games, singing, or making fun plans during the car ride.