There used to be a credit card ad on TV where some smarmy young high-flying business exec is on the phone is saying, “You want me to go to Bangkok?” Then he’d pull out his credit card and say, “Sure… I’m packed!” At that stage of my life I would want to hurl things at the screen, because even getting out of the house to go to the dairy with three little kids was a mission.
As kids the grew, “exit stress” persisted but the causes changed. Our infants would synchronize the need for a nappy change as they detected you moving towards the door but, later, teenage grooming or the need to properly conclude a video game or an online chat delayed departure.
I remember waiting in the car, being very tempted to yell, “I’m going to go without you!” but what would I do when I got to their music lesson with them? I’ve heard that some parents have said, “There is only one free taxi leaving here and it leaves at ten-to-eight. If you miss it, there is the number for the taxi company. A ride to school will cost you about $46 dollars of your savings.” It’s a cool threat, but to be honest I’ve I’ve never actually heard of it being done.
Here are some strategies that really helped:
Start a count down. “We’ll be leaving the house in fifteen minutes.” “Ten minutes”. “Five minutes”.
Use a consequence. If they are five minutes late getting through the door, get them up five minutes earlier the next day, and move their bed-time forward five minutes as well. It needn’t be a permanent change, but do carry it through at least in the 24 hours following the incident.
Make sure there is no unintended reward for their tardiness. Maybe being slow to get ready gets them a ride to school in your car rather than having to catch the bus… so the smart thing to do is to be slow. Once or twice when they miss the bus you can be kind, thrice should get a warning, but after that they face consequences: a long walk and maybe a detention for being late.
Use sibling rivalry. The first to the car gets to ride shotgun in the front seat, and if you’re last you get the lumpy, cramped middle back seat. You may need to conceive few extra children to make this technique work.
Plan ahead. The best advice is to tackle the problem the night before. Talk through what has to be done and when you’ll be leaving, and what will happen if they aren’t ready. It’s better to do it in the cool of the evening.
John has been with The Parenting Place (www.theparentingplace.com) for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter. He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital. As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.