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WAKING UP A TEENAGER

My best advice: DON’T!

Parents do serve as human alarm clocks during the early school years. But obviously we’re not going to be around forever and dorm rooms at college are too small for a person-size alarm.

I recommend the early purchase of a personal alarm clock for each child. When? Obviously the child has to be old enough to tell time and dextrous enough to set the alarm. The average would be fourth grade but some kids are ready earlier.

In the beginning parents have to add setting the alarm to the bedtime ritual of getting school clothes, books, and homework ready for the morning.

In the beginning parents also have to be sure the child sets the alarm at a suitable time. An occasional daredevil will figure, “School starts at eight, I’ll set the alarm for ten to.” Help the child learn how to calculate backwards: “I have to leave at 7:30. It takes me 15 minutes to get dressed and washed. Breakfast and brushing my teeth again takes 20 minutes. If I set the alarm for 6:45 I’ll have extra time for contingencies.” Explain what “contingencies” are-”It might start to rain and you have to find your jacket.” or “You forgot to get a permission slip signed.”

Obviously there will have to be some reminders to be sure the alarm is set. There might have to be some discussions about changing the morning schedule if your schedule changes. But by the time the child is in middle school getting ready for school and getting there on time should be the child’s responsibility.

You didn’t do this and now you have a teenager who can’t get out of bed in the morning and neighbors are beginning to complain about the morning screams (“Get out of bed this instant young man! I’ve called you five times!”)?

Time for remedial action. Three easy steps:

o Resign from your alarm-clock function. Tell your child you will never wake him or her again unless the house is on fire.

o Insist that your teen buy an alarm clock immediately out of allowance funds (this makes the kid have a better sense of ownership than if you buy it).

o Allow the teen to suffer whatever consequences occur. You have to leave for work? Your son will have to walk and will be late to school and it’s HIS PROBLEM, not yours.

Remember with all parenting remedial actions NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD HABIT, not even once!

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