Are you that mom or dad who is always late to everything? Whether it’s going or leaving, dropping off or picking up, you are late, all. the. time. While certainly life is busy, and there are always things that need to be done before you leave the house (or work), especially when there are many children (and adults) you have to get out the door, you need to be aware that being late sends some very real messages to your children, especially the older they get.
For a while your child (especially if they are very social), may like that you are late coming to pick them up – they get more playtime with their friends! Win for them and win for your late self! However, if your lateness is excessive, well beyond that 5-10 minute mark, consistently, your child will eventually stop loving this “extra” time waiting on you.
Because, being late sends some pretty strong messages to your children. Messages that you may not realize they are receiving, and I’m assuming never wanted to send.
The messages a child receives when you’re late
A child that has a parent who is always very late picking up them or taking them places will begin to feel undervalued. They will feel forgotten and neglected. They will feel like a loser. They will feel alone, and awkward as they missed out on some of the fun (or some of practice) because they were so late getting there. They will get sick of making excuses for your lateness.
Eventually your child will build up resentment toward you, judge you, compare you to their friend’s parents who aren’t late picking them up ever, and wish they were their parents. They will get angry at you, mad at you, yell at you, but be completely crushed and saddened and cry alone in their room. They may label you as a bad mother or father, or as uncaring, and unloving.
So, please, don’t do this to your child. Don’t be comfortable being the late parent. And don’t believe that your kids are “just used to it” or when they tell you “it isn’t a big deal.” A simple thing like this can grossly and negatively affect your relationship. So, stop making excuses for your lateness, and expecting your children to just accept them. Actions speak louder than words, and these actions of forgetting your children, or having them wait alone, having to turn down ride after ride offer because their parent “is coming” speaks a loud message to your child that you do not want to send. Value your children, their time, and their feelings. Don’t be late!
If this is a problem for you, here are some suggestions on overcoming the lateness:
- Plan ahead. Really ahead.
- Prepare. Line up backpacks, shoes, lunch bags, clothes, etc the night before.
- Use a scheduling tool, calendar, phone reminders, emails, texts, whatever! And establish a set time you need to start to get ready, and then then the time you need to actually get out the door. And then stick to them religiously!
- Get the whole family on board, and add in time for those unexpected last minute holdups, like diaper changes.
- Make alternative arrangements if you’ll be late (or later than 10 minutes). Call and ask another mom to pick them up. Tell your child to ask to get a ride home from a friend, or if a friend can pick them up.
- Provide them with something to do or work on if you will be late getting them.
- Let them know you ARE coming. Call, text, talk ahead of time. Reassure them. Call the school/teacher to let them know. Stuff comes up. Life happens. You get stuck in traffic. An emergency happens. Have a way of contacting your child.
- Have your child (assuming their age and capabilities allow, and that’s it’s safe to do so) walk or bike to their destination, so it will be on them to be late or on time.
How do you make sure you’re on time for your child?