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Downstairs on the Dot: Who Decides a Teen Morning Schedule?

Who decides a teen’s morning schedule? When the teen is continually late, parents might see their role as enforcer of the time. Some parents might preemptively take charge even when the teen isn’t late. One mom, her daughter, and the final arbiter—THE EXPERT. See what they each have to say.

MOM | Cheryl Maguire

The school bus arrives at 6:40 a.m. So I expect my daughter to be downstairs, eating breakfast, by 6:25 a.m. If she is even a minute late, the consequence is to turn over her phone and any electronic devices for the evening.

Headshot mom Cheryl Maguire

She needs 15 minutes to eat breakfast, gather her things, and walk to the bus, which is why I gave her that timeline. If she misses the bus, then I will have to drive her, which will inconvenience me and possibly cause her to be late for school.

I believe in the importance of punctuality, and I want to instill this behavior in my children. Being on time for school, work, or a date shows the person waiting for you that you are responsible, trustworthy, and dependable. It also demonstrates respect for other people’s time.

It may seem extreme to give an exact time, but I’ve found that if I don’t, then she is late for the bus—and she has missed it before. Also, the line needs to be drawn at some point. If I start to allow an extra minute, then before you know it, it will turn into five minutes.

Ultimately punctuality will foster self-confidence and success for my daughter. And isn’t that what all parents want for their children?

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling degree in psychology. She is married and the mother of three children, including twins.

TEEN | Lindsay Maguire

Every morning, Monday through Friday, my mom wakes us up to get ready for school. We get dressed, eat breakfast, and then get on the bus.

Headshot teen Lindsay Maguire

I don’t mind doing these things, but she gives us time limits to get downstairs. If we are not downstairs by 6:25 a.m., we will suffer consequences, such as no electronics (phones, computers, etc.) for the rest of the day. This rule would be fine, but my mom has taken it to an extreme. If we are even just a minute late to come downstairs, we get in trouble.

One time, I even yelled from upstairs, “I can’t find my jacket, I’m going to be a minute late,” and I still received consequences. She didn’t even give me a warning while I was upstairs that I was not going to be given an exception.

I just think this rule should be relaxed. So far, we haven’t missed the bus this year—even when my brother and I were late coming downstairs, implying that this rule is very unnecessary.

She takes away our phones because she thinks this is the cause of our tardiness and that we lose sleep because of them, but she knows we don’t stay up late playing on our phones because we plug them in every night at our charging station.

This rule has been taken to unnecessary and uncalled-for extremes, and neither my brother nor I appreciate it in the slightest.

Lindsay Maguire is in 8th grade. She enjoys art, piano, and playing tennis.

EXPERT | Carla Naumburg, Ph.D.

I sympathize with Cheryl’s desire to keep the morning train on the tracks and teach her children the value of punctuality. I also understand Lindsay’s perspective; expectations that feel unnecessarily rigid are frustrating and unhelpful.

Headshot Carla Naumburg, Ph.D.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground, and it’s about how we understand discipline. At its best, discipline teaches children the skills and strategies they need to be successful while also strengthening the parent-child relationship.

Unfortunately, the current plan isn’t striking this balance.

Lindsay isn’t learning how to manage her time; she’s only learning to meet her mother’s needs. Cheryl’s expectation that Lindsay is ready on time is completely reasonable and should be maintained. Rather than enforcing it with strict rules and unrelated consequences, Cheryl can create opportunities for Lindsay to experience the natural outcomes of her choices.

Here’s what this would look like: Lindsay knows when the bus comes, and it’s her job to be on it. If she doesn’t leave time for breakfast, she can grab a banana or be hungry for a few hours. If she misses the bus, it’s her job to figure out how to get to school. Can she walk or text a friend? Lindsay’s not old enough for Uber, but if Cheryl is available to drive, Lindsay pays her mother the equivalent cost of the ride. And if she’s late to school, Lindsay takes the hit on her grades.

Hopefully, such a plan will teach Lindsay the value of punctuality and the necessary time management skills while also supporting Cheryl and Lindsay’s relationship.

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Carla Naumburg, PhD, is the author of How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids.

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