Before any big event, wise people make thorough preparations. Whether it’s a wedding, a vacation or a new career, we want to be prepared for whatever comes our way.
In the same way, wise parents plan ahead for their child’s success. Instead of playing defense and taking on each battle as it comes, it is mandatory to plan ahead. Here are seven steps to help your child’s school year get off to a great start and a successful finish. These steps will also help your family get along when the stress of school hits.
Step No. 7
Decide the bedtime routine. Pick a bedtime for each child and the routine that needs to take place. This is a great time to sit on the side of each child’s bed and spend 15 minutes downloading their day. Send them off to sleep knowing you care.
Step No. 6
If you have a morning dawdler, require him or her to pack their backpack the night before. Avoid morning arguments by having your child set out tomorrow’s school clothes before they go to bed. For those attending schools that do not use uniforms, this is also the time for the parents to decide what kinds of clothes are unacceptable for school. These are discussions and decisions better dealt with the night before.
Step No. 5
Begin the school year with a pre-determined homework plan. Choose the time and location for homework. Your students can earn more independence as the year progresses, but for now start them in one location and pick the time they must be at the table. This is also the time to pick the consequence for not being on time at that pre-determined location. Sound unreasonable? Their boss will expect them to arrive at meetings on time. This discipline might save their future job.
Step No. 4
Establish a month-at-a-glance family calendar, as well as a month-at-a- glance calendar for each child. This will help the child begin to learn time management. It will also help the family realize just how many activities they are committing to. Put the due dates for long-term assignments, such as science projects and book reports, on both calendars. Then count back an appropriate amount of days from those due dates so adequate time can be set aside to read the required books and work on the projects. Rushing to finish a project at the last minute doesn’t teach a child anything but stress management. A calendar will show the family and child that you really don’t have time to say “yes” to everything.
Step No. 3
With everything else there is to do, decide ahead of time that each week will include a Family Night. Make this a night where an hour or two is set aside for games. Obviously this time is for more than games. Give your children the opportunity to feel like they’re part of something special: a family.
Step No. 2
Decide ahead of time what your priority activities are going to be. On Wednesday night is church a priority over other activities? If you make these decisions at the beginning of the year it will prepare your children to say ‘no’ to other unimportant activities. It will also teach the child that time management decisions are all part of bigger priorities. Your children will still ask if they can do extracurricular activities on previously planned nights, but in their hearts they will already know your answer.
Use breakfast time to set a mood; don’t just use it for eating. There are three kinds of nourishment your child needs every morning. The most significant is spiritual nourishment, second is family enrichment and the last is actual food. If it was just about food, you could hand them a health bar as they go out the door. Breakfast is a time for the family to sit for 20 minutes and eat together. This is the perfect time for a parent to read a short passage from the Bible, discuss it and then pray before everyone goes off to fight the battle. Setting aside time to read a Bible passage is the most important investment a parent can make. Why else do you think it’s so hard to actually do? Minutes spent together reading the Bible and praying helps send the children out the door with the realization they actually belong to something even bigger than their family. They belong to God. This will go a long ways when they have those moments of feeling alone and without value.
This is the time to jump out front and decide that you will take control of your family time rather than spend another school year racing to catch up.
Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues. For more information, visit www.SheridanHouse.org.