Friday - - Beauty -

Q My 15-year-old son is never punc­tual. He also ends up mak­ing us late for events or gath­er­ings. I must con­fess to cov­er­ing for him and I do make ex­cuses for the rea­sons he is late. Now I think it may be get­ting A worse. What can I do? Be­ing late is some­thing we all must deal with oc­ca­sion­ally – but be­ing late for ev­ery­thing on a daily ba­sis is quite se­ri­ous, and you need to be con­cerned.

At 15, your son is only a stone’s throw from adult­hood and all the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that brings. Learn­ing solid or­gan­i­sa­tional skills is a big part of ma­tur­ing, and if your son doesn’t learn how to im­ple­ment them in his life now, he’ll have to learn the hard way later on.

Chronic late­ness can stem from many fac­tors. Some peo­ple have is­sues with their ‘time­keep­ing’, and find it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand just how long even sim­ple tasks might take them to ac­com­plish. Some kids (and adults) are nat­u­rally and eas­ily dis­tracted, which can af­fect their fo­cus on a day-to­day ba­sis. My ex­pe­ri­ence is chil­dren who con­stantly ar­rive late of­ten haven’t faced any se­vere con­se­quences for this be­hav­iour. They feel no pressure to be on time, and that leaves them prone to ‘dawdling’. I’m sure your son isn’t be­ing late on pur­pose; that said, you as a par­ent should start put­ting a new sys­tem into place that will help him get back on track with his time­keep­ing. It’s likely you have cov­ered for and ex­cused his late­ness for so long, that this pat­tern of poor or­gan­i­sa­tion is now nor­mal. This is the time to work with him to build his or­gan­i­sa­tional skills; it’s also a re­ally use­ful in­vest­ment for his future, so it’s def­i­nitely worth the ef­fort!

Cre­at­ing con­se­quences for late­ness is the first step to­wards erad­i­cat­ing it – it’s im­por­tant you let him know what you ex­pect. Dis­cuss the is­sue. Let him know his late­ness is be­com­ing a prob­lem that needs to be re­solved. Ask him if there’s any par­tic­u­lar rea­son he may be hav­ing trou­ble with keep­ing time. Tell him you will no longer tol­er­ate it or cover for him any­more. Fur­ther­more, he will have to face the con­se­quences at home and school or even miss out on activities be­cause he wasn’t ready on time. Try some new tac­tics to en­cour­age him to be on time; you could ‘charge’ him for ev­ery in­stance of late­ness by tak­ing away priv­i­leges for a pro­por­tion­ate amount of time. For ex­am­ple, if he were ten min­utes late, the con­se­quences might be you sub­tract 20 min­utes from his video game or so­cial me­dia time.

Some­thing ob­vi­ous – yet of­ten over­looked – is, does he have an ef­fec­tive way to keep time? Teenagers these days are less likely to wear a watch, as their smart­phones dis­play the time, but al­ways be­ing able to see the ex­act time could mean a wrist­watch might be a use­ful in­vest­ment.

Fi­nally, I re­it­er­ate, try not to cover for your child should he get into trou­ble for his late­ness. Learn­ing one’s ac­tions have reper­cus­sions is a fun­da­men­tal life les­son, Step back and al­low your teen to ex­pe­ri­ence the penal­ties. I’m con­fi­dent he will soon start get­ting where he’s sup­posed to be in good time.

RUS­SELL HEM­MINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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