I recently watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag with my family at a multiplex. As we had neglected to book tickets in advance, we ended up sitting in the first row nearest the screen. The show started at 8.25 pm and we were in our seats a few minutes early. The movie started on time but there was a constant stream of people walking across our line of vision on the way to their seats. Also, the usher kept shining his torch to guide these latecomers lest they end up falling on some hapless person who had been stupid enough to come to the theatre on time. By 9 pm, the theatre was full and I heaved a sigh of relief. However, much too soon, the exodus started again when the intermission ended. This time it was even worse—these latecomers were laden with popcorn, fries, sandwiches, samosas, coffee, tea, coke, nachos, etc which meant that a misstep could cause them to drop the whole thing in somebody’s lap. The movie was well made and absorbing but marred by the behavior of the audience.
I wondered at the attitude of these people, most of whom were accompanied by young children. What messages were these impressionable young minds receiving? That it is acceptable to be late and generally behave with no regard for other people? What are habitual latecomers communicating to the world around them? Tardiness in adults sends out the wrong signals—lack of organization and commitment, indiscipline and inefficiency.
So, what can we as parents do to inculcate punctuality in our children?
- Be a role model: children learn from watching their parents. Ensure that you are punctual, especially when your tardiness inconveniences others.
- Communication: explain why you disapprove of unpunctuality; talk to children about how being late is rude and shows a lack of respect for others waiting for them. Children respond better when they are told why a certain rule is enforced. Also, explain the benefits of punctuality to children and set down clear age-appropriate rules that are easy to understand and follow.
- Plan ahead: teach your child to plan to be on time; for instance, if school starts early in the morning, help your child pack her school bag and lay out her uniform the previous day. Set reminders for music class, dance class etc., so that she has enough time to get ready and reach on time.
- Allow your child to face the consequences of her tardiness: if she regularly misses the school bus, let her explain to her teacher and face the music. Refuse to write a leave note to explain absences due to unpunctuality.
- Reinforce positive behavior: above all, show approval when your child is on time for school or any other activity.
Disclaimer: I do not guarantee that the above will work. Despite all my efforts, my son is tardy!