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Back to School: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

September makes me think of the classic Staples Back To School commercial where “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” rings out in the aisles as a dad prances around collecting school supplies. (You can watch it here).

But wonderful as it can be to have our little ones back at school, it can also mean that we parents resume a particular type of grind – we again become the morning bugle blowers, the short-order cooks, the schedule keepers, the homework patrollers, and the bedtime police.

The bad news is: these roles create a lot of stress in the house. Kids do not like being told what to do and when to do it. And parents do not like having to do the telling.

The good news is: it doesn’t need to be that way.

Why not use the start of the school year to give kids an opportunity to grow into the responsible adults we all want them to become? They’re a grade older; let them know how capable you think they are.

Talk to them with respect about taking on more responsibility. Make a plan together. Ask them what they think they can do on their own. And if they don’t have any ideas, be ready with some of your own:

  • Using an alarm clock to wake up on their own – this works for any age child
  • Picking out clothes – great for younger kids
  • Making their own breakfast
  • Getting to their homework, instrument, or chores without being told, reminded, or nagged

Help your child set up routines, systems and schedules that she can execute on her own. Ask her when she wants to schedule homework. Right after school? After dinner? Maybe each day has different needs. Allow her to discover what works for her.

Give your child time to try out his plan for a bit and then check in with him. If it doesn’t seem to be going smoothly right away, don’t rush in to “fix” it. Instead ask, “How is your plan working for you?”  Based on his answer, you can ask what he might want to modify. Try not to become too involved. Be patient as he experiments and works his way through it.

Planning and scheduling ourselves is a life skill. Each of us needs time to learn it in our own way.

Stepping away from some of our dreaded roles can not only reduce some of our stress as parents, it also helps our child become more self-reliant and learn problem-solving skills, a wonderful gift that you cannot buy in any store.

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