One of the things that I found absolutely terrifying in the months before our eldest daughter started school was the idea that we actually had to be somewhere in particular, by a particular time, that time being 9 am, on five consecutive days a week. At that time we were seemingly fighting a losing battle to be anywhere much before 10 am, no matter how early we got up, and giving up the luxury of not really having to be anywhere at any particular time seemed quite daunting.
At Easter I met up with a very old friend who has a 5 and a 6 year old. My friend is a self-confessed “morning hater” so I quizzed her on how she managed to be a non-morning person and get her kids to school on time. The answer, she told me, was fairly simple. Her children wake up starving, so they were required to be dressed before breakfast was organised. Then they had to be all ready to go to school before they began playing with anything. Hmmm I thought. My girls are never actually very interested in breakfast, but there was potential in the idea. So we began working on the idea that there was no getting engrossed in games, puzzles, art projects, or generally any fun stuff until we had had breakfast, cleaned our teeth, got dressed, and packed kindy bags. This was actually amazingly easy and the girls just seemed to get into it, particularly the youngest, who seems to love these little systems.
Fast-forward a few months and we are now happily into our second term of school. I am still amazed that we have actually managed to get there on time every day (sometimes very much JUST on time) but nevertheless on time. We have recently enhanced the system with the addition of marble rewards – a marble can be earned at each end of the day for getting ready for school/kindy/bed with no fuss, plus can be rewards for super-special things, and can be removed for bad behaviour. We keep the reward/removal action for the extremes as I don’t want to be hassled for marbles every 5 minutes, and the loss of a marble is viewed as an extreme disaster so the crime must be serious enough to warrant the major meltdown that will ensue. The threat of loss of a marble however is a potent tool that can be used reasonably frequently.
The marble system also doubles as our pocket-money system. We were grappling with what to do on that front as it seemed like a good time to introduce pocket money for our 5 year old, but we knew that the 3 year old would want to be in on the action too, so any system needed to be simple enough to apply to both. This works awesomely as 10 marbles can be cashed in for $1, which must be deposited in the piggy bank, and piggy bank money can be saved for purchases of the earner’s choice. The girls had a head start as were each given $5 for their birthdays by a family member, so the $2 they have earned since then quickly gave them a reasonable amount, which I’m slightly embarrassed to say, was immediately spent. They might get a bit of a fright about how hard it will be to save for the next purchase but if it gets too demoralising we can always alter the marble:money ratio.
So, for now, we have found a pretty good system for getting the girls out the door, on time, in reasonably good condition…most of the time!