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Originally published Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Parenting

Lesson No. 1: 10-year-old can get herself ready for school

Tips on getting a child out the door on time, plus how to make one menu work for three kids.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: My daughter is a single mom who works from 5 a.m. until 2 p.m. With these hours, my 10-year-old granddaughter sleeps each school night at my house, then my daughter picks her up after school to take her to her activities or oversee her homework.

It all works quite well. I do, however, have a problem in the morning getting my granddaughter to school on time. She dillydallies. I end up yelling at her, then finally she climbs in the car, but usually a few minutes late. I dread the start of school for fear the same routine will occur again. What can I do to hurry her along in the morning?

A: You're absolutely right that you're in a routine with your granddaughter, and it needs to change. Yelling at her each morning to get her to school on time leaves both you and her frustrated.

That said, you must realize that the only person you can change is yourself. Once you change your approach, you'll effectively change hers, too. You need to drop out of the negative aspects of the "getting out the door" routine. Here's how:

Let's say you need to leave home at 8 a.m. to be at school by 8:15 a.m. The night before school starts, review the school starting time with her. Tell her you'll be in the car at 7:55 a.m., waiting for her. When she's in the car, you'll drive her to school. Make sure she has a clock in her bedroom or a watch on her wrist so she can easily check the time.

The next morning, offer her a couple of prompts: "It's 7:45. I'll be in the car at 7:55." At 7:55 say, "I'm getting in the car now. I'll be waiting for you. We need to leave by 8 to be at school by 8:15 when school starts."

Most likely she'll make you wait in the car only about five minutes. Each day her promptness will improve.

Chat about other things during the morning's preparations, but nothing about dillydallying or being a slowpoke.

When she's in the car, drive her to school. Say nothing about her promptness or tardiness. If she's late, she'll need to face the consequences with her teacher or principal.

This method wouldn't work with a younger child or if you had to be at work at a certain time. By taking this approach, you put the burden of getting to school on time on her; by fifth grade it's her responsibility, not yours.

Q: I feel like a short-order cook. In one evening, one child will demand macaroni and cheese, another cereal, while one child eats the meatloaf, potatoes and salad I've prepared. I'm sick of it, but I don't want to hear whining and complaining at mealtime, and I don't want them to go hungry. What can I do to get all three of my kids — ages 4, 6 and 9 — to eat the same dinner?

A: Announce to your children that from now on you will be fixing only one meal at dinnertime. Tell them you will be putting food on the table, and then it's completely up to them what of it to eat. Tell them there will be no more "short orders."

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When dinner begins, pass the food around the table and let them take what they like. Make conversation pleasant; focus on the children rather than on what they're eating. Ignore all complaints — only repeat the rule, "Make a meal with the food on the table."

Research tells us that when dinnertime is pleasant, children eat what they need. For more about eating behavior, read "Simple & Savvy Strategies for Creating Healthy Eaters" by Beverly Pressey (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2008).

Jan Faull, a specialist in child development and behavior, answers readers' questions on parenting and development in her column. E-mail her at janfaull@aol.com or write to: Jan Faull, c/o Families, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Parenting
Jan Faull's Saturday parenting column spans the ages from infancy through the teen years. She offers practical advice coupled with the expertise to tackle tough topics that concern parents most, everything from toddlers' temper tantrums to teenage smoking.
janfaull@aol.com

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