Ask The Expert
My teen is always late
Dear Russell. My 15 year old son is having trouble with being on time. He is late for everything! He is also making us late for events or gatherings. I must confess to covering for him and I do make excuses for the reasons he is late. Now I think it may be getting worse, what can I do?
Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. Being late is something we all must deal with occasionally – but being late for everything on a daily basis is quite serious, and you’re right to be concerned. At fifteen, your son is only a stone’s throw from adulthood and all the responsibilities that brings. Learning solid organisational skills is a big part of maturing, and if your son doesn’t learn how to implement them in his life now, then he’ll have to learn the hard way later on!
Chronic lateness can stem from many different factors. Some people have issues with their ‘time-keeping’, and find it difficult to understand just how long even simple tasks might take them to accomplish. Some kids (and adults) are naturally and easily distracted, which can affect their focus on a day-to-day basis. My experience is children who constantly arrive late often haven’t faced any severe consequences for this behaviour. They feel no pressure to be on time, and that leaves them prone to ‘dawdling’. I’m sure your son isn’t being late on purpose, saying that, you as a parent should start putting a new system into place that will help him get back on track with his time-keeping. It’s likely you have covered for and excused his lateness for so long, that this pattern of poor organisation is now normal. This is the time to work with him to build his organisational skills it’s also a really good and useful investment for his future, so it’s definitely worth the effort!
Creating consequences for lateness is the first step towards eradicating it – it’s important that you let him know what you expect. Sit down and discuss the issue. Let him know his lateness is becoming a problem which needs to be resolved. Ask him if there’s any particular reason why he may be having trouble with keeping time. Tell him you will no longer tolerate it or cover for him anymore. Furthermore, he will have to face the consequences at home and school or even miss out on activities because he wasn’t ready on time. Try some new tactics to encourage him to be on time; you could ‘charge’ him for every instance of lateness by taking away privileges for a proportionate amount of time! For example, if he were ten minutes late, the consequences might be you subtract twenty minutes from his video game or social media time.
Something obvious yet often overlooked is, does he have an effective way to keep time? Teenagers these days are less likely to wear a watch, as their smartphones display the time, but always being able to see the exact time could mean a wrist watch might be useful investment.
Finally, I reiterate, try not to cover for your child should he get into trouble for his lateness. Learning that one’s actions have repercussions is a fundamental life lesson, one that we should continually teach and learn. Parents naturally want to protect, but in this case, you need to step back and allow your teen to experience the penalties. By reinforcing it is not appropriate to be routinely late and there will be consequences, I’m confident your teenager will soon start getting where they’re supposed to be in good time.
Russell is an expert in social anxiety, confidence, concentration, perfectionism, laziness, gadget addiction, study focus, procrastination and time management.
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