Seeing a big yellow school bus instantly reminds me of Chelsey and Katie’s experiences catching a ride; frantic searches for things to cram in their backpack and teeth half brushed after a leisurely breakfast. It was not always an easy issue for me and my fellow Parents Anonymous Group members would agree. We each took our turns on the “pity pot” to bemoan missed buses and trips to school with a tardy child. We each had different approaches and some worked better than others; here is what I did.
The All-Important Ownership
Getting the girls each their own clock and teaching them how to use it was the first step. We calculated the time needed to eat breakfast, brush their teeth, comb their hair and then get dressed. Time adjustments would be made as needed; if there was too little time then we set the clock for them to get up a few minutes earlier.
Giving the kids a clock and the expectation to be ready and on time gave them ownership of the duty. “Good or bad, children will more often live up to your expectations of them.” ~Parents Anonymous Group Facilitator
The Lateness Rule
If my child missed the bus because of dawdling or not getting up when the clock alarm rings then I would take them to school and expect to be paid the going rate. When this rule began the charge was $5.00 and two years later it was raised to $10.00. If I was asked to drive something to school the charge would be the same. If the children missed the bus through no fault of their own (no electricity or other valid reason) then I took them with no charge.
Doing this teaches children to respect my time and to appreciate me for doing this for them. Long-range it taught the girls not to expect a free ride, in other words, to become responsible and expect consequences in life.
Setting a rule is easy but following through takes conviction and stamina. In other words, you have to mean it and stick to what you said. If parents do not follow through then they are making their lives more difficult for a long time.
Children, as sweet as they are, will sniff out a weakness and exploit it to the best of their ability every time. After giving the rule, if you ever give in and do not follow through, you will be ensuring that all other rules will now be in jeopardy as well. Only after careful consideration should a parent give in and break their rules.
Daily Plan and Launchpad
Teach children to review each day the night before. Having a weekly or monthly calendar posted above their work area or beside their doorway can help kids begin to take ownership of preparation for the next school day. Before children go to bed have them pack their backpack with everything they will need (books, homework and money) and then put it on their morning Launchpad (bench, chair, or other designated space) to grab going out the door. The goal is to make mornings go as smoothly as possible so kids are not late and do not forget things.
Put children in charge of their schedule and preparation for daily activities as much as possible when age appropriate. If parents see that a child is truly struggling then it is time to review abilities with regard to responsibility. Reassure children that the time will come when they will be able to manage those responsibilities.
School Is A Must
Occasionally parents will be asked by kids if they can stay home to finish a project or because they are tired. This is a state law, unless kids are truly sick, they must go to school. (It’s nice to blame a painful rule on someone else.)
There is no discussion here; kids go to school or to the doctor for a diagnosis or a note. Call the physician first to get their instructions. Fevers mean an illness is contagious and kids must stay home. It is possible to diagnose the most recent illness in the area by symptoms.
Volunteering Was Iron Clad
Chelsey and Katie understood that I volunteered for 4-hour periods of time on the Helpline and that if I was on duty then I could not leave the phone unattended. In a dire emergency I would need to get another volunteer to fill in which would mean disrupting another person’s schedule.
The girls came to understand not only their needs, but the needs of others. To me this was an important lesson for them that propelled them to look at the big picture. The book report might be needed but it would wait till I completed my shift.
Get out the violins… I walked to and from school every day, rain or shine. I walked home soaked to the skin and my mother sat at home with a car in the driveway. In moments of weakness I would remember this and reconsider. Thinking of the message relenting would send to Chelsey and Katie, I remained strong.
Do your children miss the bus? What would the going rate be in your area?
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of ThoseGuys119 Under Flicker/CC License Original .
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her blog here on her contact page.