Q&A: How Can I Help My Son Be On Time?

A reader asks, “How can we help our 17 year old care more about being on time? We have tried to explain that it’s selfish to make other people wait on him. He has never had a hurry “button.””

This is kind of hard. I know this is frustrating – and you’re no doubt worried about what will happen to him when he gets in the real world. Been there.

RRM My Son is Always Late V

First, let me encourage you that it’s amazing how quickly they learn when they have to. The same kid who won’t get out of bed at home will set three alarms and get up on time every day when he realizes he has to.

Even if he doesn’t, sometimes kids just have to learn the hard way. A slept-through test and all the complications that come from it is pretty curative, I’ve seen. 🙂

At seventeen, they really have to be teachable for you to be able to teach them. That means, you’ve got to convince him he’ll need to learn to be on time before you can teach him to. Explain to him without rancor that you are worried about him, that he’ll have to support himself soon and he might struggle to keep a job or graduate from college if he’s consistently late. One of our sons had a professor that locked the door at class time and would not let latecomers enter. If you missed just a few classes, he would fail you. Man! That worried me, but our son did fine.

He’ll be grown and out of your house so fast that you can hardly imagine it. You don’t have much time left and timeliness is probably not the most important thing you need to tell him between now and then, so don’t major on it. Your relationship is worth more than that.

If he understands the need and wants help, here are some things that might help:

RRM My Son is Always Late H

Help him figure out how long it takes him to get ready to go, realistically without feeling rushed. The first few times only, remind him what time he’ll need to start getting ready. Don’t nag, just say, “You said you needed 45 minutes (or whatever) to get ready and we’re leaving in 45 minutes.”

Get him an alarm clock and timer or encourage him to use the ones on his phone. You need to get out of the equation as much as possible. You don’t plan to leave home with him, so he’s got to learn to do this on his own.

Sometimes it’s a just a mismatch of personalities on this issue. Hal never gets in a hurry. So calm. He hates flurry. Melanie always knows what time it is. Always. She can’t stand being late. She keeps telling herself Hal is probably not going to die of a heart attack like his dad did. 🙂  It’s good for us both, really, to learn to cope together.

If you and your teen need to get on the same page, you guys should join us for PreFlight, our online class series for teens and their parents about preparing for the transition to adulthood. It’s going on right now, but you can watch the first session recorded to catch right up!

Your friends,Hal and Melanie at Science Museum 150

Hal & Melanie