I have always been a stickler for punctuality. The old saying “5 minutes early is on time, on time is late” never applied to me. It was more like “5 minutes early is late; 15 minutes early is on time.” Before I even started karate, if my mom was running late taking me somewhere, I would freak out. I could not stand being late. Where did this trait come from? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know, is that teaching kids to be on time is not something that is taught these days.
Once I started karate, the importance of being on time was further instilled in me by my militaristic instructor. If you were late to class, a verbal thrashing, fear for your life, and an absurd number of pushups ensued. If you were late to a test or special event? Don’t bother coming. This was unquestionably a bit extreme for an 8-year-old, but it sure did drive home my need to be on time further.
Now that I am a dad, I can empathize with those frantic parents who are running late. Sometimes it feels like the stars need to be in perfect alignment in order to get out the door. You plan it all out. Pack the diaper bag. Grab snacks. Get him dressed. Shoes on. Coat on. All is going as planned, on schedule. Then…poop. Literally. Undo all the steps and repeat the process. Now you are running late.
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All my friends with kids as well as parents of students would always tell me, “Once you have kids, you’ll soften up on being late.” Guess what? Didn’t happen. We all run late from time to time. However, it seems today that more and more people make it a habit, and my feelings towards that have not changed.
Why is it so important to be on time? The answer is respect. When you are late, you show a lack of respect to the other parties involved. You are saying that their time is not as valuable as yours. If you are late, you show a lack of courtesy regarding what the other people involved may have to do. Perhaps by being late, the class now needs to run late, and another parent is late picking up their other child.
If you are up for a promotion at work and it is down to you and another coworker and you are consistently late while the coworker is always on time, who do you think will get it? If you are on a soccer team and show up 10 minutes into the game every time, how do you think your teammates will feel? The consequences could be catastrophic if you are a firefighter or EMT and are late to an emergency.
Kids learn the majority of their behaviors from the people they are around most, typically parents. The job of teaching kids to be on time therefore is the parent’s responsibility. As I have mentioned several times so far, I fully understand that people will be late from time to time. When someone who is usually on time is late, I don’t get upset. The reason for that is because one of the following things happens:
They call/text/email saying they will be late – It takes literally 10 seconds to send a text message to someone to tell them you are running late. That small act shows that you do indeed respect their time.
They apologize for being late – When coming in late be sure to apologize to all involved. This again shows you respect their time and are sorry for any inconvenience you may be causing them.
They explain how this was non-normal occurrence – After apologizing, be sure to explain your reason for being late. You overslept. You had to stay at work. The bus was late. It doesn’t matter what it is, just tell the truth. This indicates that you understand why you were late and that it doesn’t typically happen.
They learn from that occurrence – If you find out that your bus seems to always be 10 minutes late, figure out a different way to get where you need to be on time. If your boss seems to schedule meetings that run late, figure out a way to change your schedule. Don’t put your schedule and punctuality issues on someone else. Figure out what you need to do to be on time.
Not only is teaching kids to be on time important, it is also important to teach them what to do when you are not on time. You can still show respect when you are late by doing one of the things outlined above.
Can you imagine how much calmer, smoother, and friendlier the world would be if we all tried our best to consistently be on time?
Ahhhh, sounds like utopia to me.