Morning madness

Mornings in our home are crazy! My 10-year-old is always late. We leave the house in an angry huff and inevitably leave something behind. This is not a nice way to start the day ... any suggestions? Harried Mom

Dear Harried Mom,

Boy, can I relate! It's extremely annoying when halfway to school, your "little musician'' almost inaudibly utters, "Mom, I forgot my flute.''

First, set some rules and consequences at a family meeting, where everyone gets a chance to voice their opinions. Of course, you as parents always have final veto power. You may want to make a chart or more informal list of all the things that need to be in order each morning. Check your child's schedule for things that are needed, such as due library books, signed permission slips, finished homework, band instruments and sports equipment.

Help your child prepare what you can the night before: homework in the backpack, lunch ready in the fridge, clothes laid out for the morning and BOTH shoes in a designated place. At the family meeting, decide who uses the bathroom first, second, third, etc. (This was a real problem in my house -- I was always last and never had more than three minutes! I found that by getting up 20 minutes before anyone else stirred, I was able to sneak into the bathroom and take the time I needed to look human.)

Stick to the consequences the family agreed upon at the meeting. Make sure you give plenty of "what if'' examples. If Gina forgets her flute, does Mom come to her rescue or let her deal with the consequences at school? If Bobby leaves his homework on the kitchen table, does he admit to the teacher what really happened, or does he use you as a cop out? (One of my kids once told his teacher, "It's not my fault! My mom ran out of paper!'') When Mom notices the brown-bag lunch left in the fridge, does she rush it over to school before her meeting, or let her son "suffer'' eating the school's staple peanut butter sandwich?

Keep in mind it's often painful for a parent to stand back and let the child deal with the consequences. But I've noticed that by not always coming to the rescue, I actually improved my kid's memory as well as his sense of responsibility.

--Gail Reichlin