Respectful parenting school run


As a parent of children who go to school, one of the most stressful, daily occurrences is actually getting them there each day. If you also have children at school, you will know this is a tricky part of the day. One thing we, as parents, need to do is work on handling our own stress which is something I sometimes do well and at other times struggle with.

One way of reducing this stress is to consider who is actually responsible for getting our children to school on time. I would go as far as saying it is not our responsibility! I would say it is our job to provide the conditions necessary for our child to successfully get to school on time and it is our child’s responsibility to be at school on time. Now, writing this, I am sure some of you are thinking “My child would do anything they can to not be at school on time” and I believe you that this is true. However, I believe this needs unpicking. Instead of forcing your child to get ready in the morning, having lots of shouting, threats etc; I believe it’s important to find out more about these feelings.

Why doesn’t your child want to be at school on time?
What is it about school that is bothering her?
What can be done differently in the morning to help your child to get ready?

I think this should all be discussed with children who are reluctant to get ready in the morning, just not in the actual morning, there definitely isn’t time for that! Sometimes discussing an issue your child has with their teacher might make a positive change for your child however I understand, some things might be difficult to change. Sometimes it might be something, as parents, we can do differently at home for our child. In essence, getting our children to school at a particular time each day goes against the concept of Parent Allies because we may have to force our child to do something they don’t want to do and that feels really uncomfortable (just writing that feels wrong to me), so what can we do to be an ally to our children and still get them to school on time?

Well, firstly I want to say that the answer to this is as diverse and unique as every other way we parent. It has to fit into your family and your approach and fit with your children. I don’t know you or your family dynamic so all I can do is share what we do.

A few years ago now, I was still struggling with getting everything done in the morning and felt I was constantly nagging my children (because I was!) so I spent some time thinking of what I could do differently.

I wanted my children to be responsible for the things they could do for themselves so eventually I decided on making a tick sheet. Now let me make this clear this was not a reward/punishment chart it had no other purpose other than to remind my children what tasks they were responsible for each morning. I wrote it by hand and attached it to a clipboard with a pencil and they had one each to help them in the morning. It included everything that was their responsibility, at the time my youngest was not a fluent reader so I included pictures for her so she could also ‘read’ her list. It simply said “Get up, have breakfast, get dressed, ask mummy to put my hair up, clean teeth, put on shoes, put on coat, go!”. This was written as a list with a tick box next to each job and my children loved it! It put the responsibility of doing these things directly with them and the tick sheets continued for a very long time (I thought the novelty would quickly wear off) until it became more of a habit and we didn’t need them any more.

Respectful parenting school run

However, this doesn’t mean everything always goes swimmingly and, once again, about a year ago I really did some thinking and examined my parenting style making some big changes in terms of my attitudes as well as my actual interactions which also meant some further tweaks to the morning routine (which will definitely need to be adapted and changed as we grow and change). So this is how it looks each Monday to Friday in our house:

1. 6.30/6.45ish I get ready before my children wake. As they are not early risers I like to leave
them to sleep as long as possible which means by the time they are up there is little time left
for me. So, I find, showering and starting to get myself ready before they wake keeps my
stress levels lower and allows me to have time to focus on them once they are up.

2. I slowly wake my children (I literally can not remember the last time I didn’t have to wake
them, it feels so wrong but it is the only way to get them to school on time). So at 7am I
open the curtains in the summer or switch on the landing light in the winter (I am working
on the theory that light is the natural way to wake up, I’m not sure it actually helps them
much, but it can’t be doing any harm!). At 7.15 I go into their room and say “Good
morning”. Their eyes normally open and then shut, I am trying to gently rouse them out of
sleep, I am not expecting much of a response. At 7.25 I let them know it’s 5 minutes until
breakfast and at 7.30 I tell them it’s breakfast time.

3. They rarely get up immediately. I understand this as I am not one of those people who jumps
out of bed in the morning! I normally potter round a little upstairs and then tell them I am
going downstairs for breakfast. I don’t always go back up until I have finished my breakfast
as I have decided as part of my parenting style I am going to say what I mean with the
expectation I will be listened to (this sounds a bit harsh, I don’t mean it to) otherwise it
becomes nagging that they won’t listen to. They normally trundle down to breakfast fairly
quickly after that. I might go up to remind them it’s breakfast time if they slept badly the
night before (they often fall asleep quite late in the evening). I will go back up after eating
my breakfast if they haven’t appeared. Although it’s tempting to holler at the bottom of the
stairs to save me from going up and down, I resist this urge and try to role-model the
behaviour I would like to see from them, to be respectful because that’s the right thing to do
and how I would like to be treated by everyone else. Only once have they actually not made
it down to breakfast at all and instead ate fruit on the way to school. That’s their choice.

4. At 8am I let them know it’s time to get dressed. I give them 5 minutes notice before this.
Again, this doesn’t feel like allied parenting. To tell them they have to stop eating is not
really respecting their rights to eat when they are hungry. If they actually choose to keep
eating, that’s fine. To me it’s more of a suggestion around a time frame rather than a rigid
rule. Alternatively they could get dressed and go back for more if time allows or take
something to eat whilst walking. They then get dressed we tie up hair and clean teeth. If
they have any spare time they can choose what to do. I have talked to them about possible
activities and explained it is a small amount of time and can be frustrating to have to stop so
it can be better to choose something that doesn’t involve setting up before starting e.g.
reading, drawing, playing with small world toys that are already out etc. Often they go on
the tablet. They don’t have to follow my suggestions.

5. I give them 5 minutes notice before they have to stop playing. At 8.25 I ask them to put their
shoes on and, in winter, their coats. Often they don’t do this immediately, I allow 10 minutes
for this as I know it is difficult for them to stop what they are doing to get ready. I often find this part the most stressful as I start seeing the time tick away and worry we will be late.

If I am literally only doing the school run and don’t have to be anywhere straight after I remind
myself and my children, if they don’t respond, that I am only trying to get them to school on
time but it’s up to them . If I am going to work straight after I explain this to them and say
we have to leave on time, it’s up to them if they are ready. We have left, before now, with
hair down and not tied up (as school rules) and then tied it up in the playground but I can’t
think of anything else we haven’t got done that was essential. I think that helps as well,
keeping to tasks that are essential and not asking them to do anything else. I don’t ask them
to clear the breakfast pots (though they often do), make their beds or tidy anything up. I
know they don’t have much time so choose to focus on what really must get done.

Everyone’s family is different and so their morning routine will be unique to them. This is what I have found to be the best way to achieve a respectful morning and get my children to school on time.

Despite my worry, we have never been late and I feel I am doing all I can to be an ally when
essentially their right to choice is limited. I try and work with them rather against them, we are all working towards the same goal and it normally feels this way.

Sarah lives in Devon, England with her husband and two children aged 7 and 9. She writes at
Rhubarb and Runner Beans about her adventures towards a more respectful and gentle way of interacting with children and the planet.


  • Jules Edge August 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Brilliantly written. Very talented writer who can look at both sides of an argument and compare. Love reading these articles and it really makes me think about my parenting.

    • Sarah January 24, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Thank you so much Jules, I’m glad you liked it.


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