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On Time!

Original article can be found here.

Imagine that you have just entered a special event.

Everyone is already there and has begun to eat their meals, having already had time to hang their coats, get a drink, find their table and get to know the people next to you and across from you before the special guest speaks.
You have arrived late and haven’t had time to do any of the above. It’s almost an arresting feeling to walk in the door and realize how late you are. I mean, it didn’t seem like things were running that far behind, right?

Translating the above scenario, which most adults have experienced at one time or another, to the experience of at 2 ½-6 ½ year old child is not that far from what the child experiences when he arrives to school after the day has already begun.
More often than not the children who are repeatedly tardy haven’t the slightest idea that they are, in fact, very late to school until they reach the doorway and see that the class is already in session. They see their friends busy at work, no longer in the transitional space in the doorway for putting away coats and lunchboxes and greeting one another. There is always a moment where the late child stands almost paralyzed in the doorway, and it dawns on them that they are late.

“Young children are easily distracted. A classmate who comes into the room after an activity has started causes disruption. Disruptions can take time away from valuable activities and learning opportunities for the rest of the group that is already engaged.”

I’m reminded of one very strong-willed child who was always late to school by at least an hour and sometimes two. Every day, she would come into the classroom with a scowl on her face and have the toughest time finding a material to work with to begin her day.

For almost a whole school year, I tried to figure out why she was so late, talking about the importance of being on time with her parents, reminding them that we wanted to offer all of the children a peaceful, uninterrupted three-hour-work cycle, to no avail. Finally, she told me that she just didn’t feel like getting up in the morning.

Mentioning this new development to her parents changed things a bit. They started to put her to bed earlier and wake her up earlier so they could arrive at school on time. And interestingly enough, she started to change as well. The scowl left her face and was replaced with eagerness and joy to be at school and even arrive before some of her other friends. Others had the same response once they began to arrive on time. Tantrums ceased.

It is so vital to set up a consistent routine at home so that one is able to get from place to place on time. Children at this age are looking to us to know how we should be as human beings. If we set up the precedence that it is acceptable to walk in late to school, church, plays, baseball practice, ballet rehearsal or a violin lesson, the children begin to develop a habit of arriving after events are under way and never really understand the impression that it has on others.
On the other hand, if we can offer to the children a predictable routine and schedule so that they know when things are happening, it often takes the stress and chaos out of leaving on time. They can depend on the same series of events to happen before they must be in the car on the way to school, practices, etc.

We understand things happen and  tardy here or there may occur. Let’s be mindful of chronic lateness and work towards establishing a productive routine for your child and positive habits. Class begins at 8:30am

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