4. Let the consequences do the screaming. Ask yourself a question—how did you learn to be punctual? Most likely it came through experience, the negative consequences of being late and the positive results of organized living. So what is getting in the way of your son or daughter learning those same experiential lessons? My guess is that it is your own anxiety. Because of this, I have made the timer my new best friend. Instead of me nagging my son to do what he needs to do before we leave for school and then hovering over him while he ignores me, I use the timer. I decide on a reasonable amount of time for him to finish breakfast, brush his teeth, and head out the door and I calmly set a consequence that I can live with if he doesn’t beat the timer. Then comes the hard part. I drop my anxiety. I let the timer do its thing. I let my son choose to do his. I don’t count down like NASA; I don’t remind; I simply give him space. If he makes it, great. If he doesn’t, I don’t need to say a word, I just enforce the consequence. By taking myself and my own anxiety out of the equation, I can walk next to him in the whole process without dragging him kicking and screaming. I allow something larger than both of us to motivate.

Kids can smell your anxiety a mile away; they have an incredibly sensitive radar for that kind of thing. So, instead of allowing your anxiousness to drive the boat, give them a clear cut timeframe and a clear cut consequence and then back off – show them that you respect them and their ability to do this without you hovering and you do amazing things for your relationship along the way.


Hal E. Runkel, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of the National Bestseller ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool, from Waterbrook Press. Visit http://www.screamfree.com/ for more information.