Education Quandary

Getting my teenagers to school on time is a nightmare. Is there anything I can do?
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The Independent Online

Heed the very good advice of authors Gill Hines and Alison Baverstock, authors ofWhatever! A Down-to-earth Guide to Parenting Teenagers (Piatkus, £12.99). They say it is harder for teenagers to wake up in the morning than younger children, but the crucial thing is to get them to understand that it is their responsibility to get to school on time. Avoid chasing and shouting and being the reliable fall-back that allows them to carry on as before. If that means they have to learn the painful consequences of being late, so be it.

Help them to think about getting organised the night before, perhaps by pinning up school and homework timetables in their room, and also help them learn how to prioritise what they have to do so that homework deadlines are met and don't involve scrambling around in the morning.

Buy a good alarm clock - or two - and work out with them what time they feel they need to get up and leave home. Encourage them to tell you about any time it is particularly important to be there on the dot, and agree on a breakfast routine. If they don't want to eat just after getting up, think about sending them off with some fruit and a cereal bar.

Hines and Baverstock have masses of practical ideas about how to help teenagers feel good about themselves, how to keep family communications open and how to deal with problems, from parties to swearing. Their book would be a valuable summer read for any parent gearing up for a new school year with the 13s and over.

Readers' advice

Before the end of the summer term, approach their teachers and explain the problems you are experiencing. They will be grateful for your honesty and will have seen far worse! Tell them that from September you will be leaving your children to get themselves to school on time and if they are late they will have to face the consequences. Ensure that the children have a decent alarm clock, tell them what time they need to leave to for school and then leave them to it! Don't give them any attention at all for dawdling or moaning or shouting, but praise every little step they make towards getting ready - if they get up on time heap loads of praise on them for that, even if they then dawdle and are late for school. The key is to let them take responsibility for their actions, but also to praise, praise and praise again for the smallest of steps towards your goal.
Laura Dagnall, Poole

Allowing them to behave like this means that they are the ones in power, and you, like so many of today's parents, are pandering to their carelessness and bad habits. Take you power back by telling them what time you are leaving, and expecting them to be ready.
Sunita Ashok, Essex

Isn't it normal for children to be late for school and parents to shout at them? I'm the youngest of five and it's been like that in our house as long as I can remember.
Lara Wilford, Enfield

Next week's quandary

I teach eight-year-olds at a small village primary school. We hold whole-school assemblies in the hall, with the children sitting cross-legged on the floor. Now a parent has complained to me that her daughter always gets pins and needles when she sits that way and says she should be given a chair to sit on. How should teachers respond to these sorts of demands?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to reach her by next Monday, 18 July, at The Independent, Education Desk, Second Floor,Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020 7005 2143; or send e-mails to Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.