In January, many of us will make resolutions—promises to ourselves that we will improve in some way during the coming year. No doubt there are more than a few of us who would like to be more punctual.
While we may think of punctuality as simply a personal trait of being on time, promptness actually sends a strong statement to others about how much we value them. Punctuality shows esteem for other people and regard for their time.
I recently attended a workshop where the subject of working in groups came up. One of my classmates, a scrapbooker, said her biggest frustration about doing joint projects is people who arrive late or fail to cancel when they can’t make it. “It says they don’t respect me or my time,” she said.
We all know how disappointing and annoying it can be to wait for someone who doesn’t show up. Most of us will cut friends some slack if they’re running late for lunch, but woe to the repairman who makes you wait all day—you’ll likely call someone else next time.
It’s important to impress upon our children the message they are sending to others when they arrive late. It is not just a matter of missing a few minutes of class, they are telling the teacher that other things are more important than what she has to say.
For many of us, the tendency to be late may come from scheduling more than we can possibly do. How many of your appointments are things you enjoy, and how many are obligations that steal your time and leave you frazzled? Take a realistic look at your calendar this month, and give some thought to the way you and your family are spending your time.
On March 19 of each year, the cliff swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, California. Without the aid of calendars or PDAs, the migrating birds make their annual move from winter territories in South America to southern California. The cliff swallows follow the hatching insects that move north as the temperatures rise. The birds arrive each spring to build their nests and raise their young, always arriving on or around March 19– it is rare for their arrival to vary by more than 24 hours.
Their migration is so well-known, there was even a song written about it: “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” was a hit for Glenn Miller in 1940. Pat Boone re-recorded the song in 1967, but with less success.
I Will Statements
- I will be at the right place at the right time.
- I will prepare for unexpected delays.
- I will do my work ahead of time.
- I will plan a daily schedule and keep it.
- I will not fall into the trap of “just one more.”
Perhaps one of the most visible illustrations of the need to be at the right place at the right time is found in sports. Whether your child is playing or watching, point out when players are punctual by being in their position to complete the play.
Punctuality is intrinsically related to time, and time can be a tricky concept for children to grasp. With the holidays just passing, children may think it will be “forever” before their birthday or Christmas rolls around again. To give them a better grasp on the passage of time, help them make a calendar for their room. Check the office department of your favorite store or use computer programs which provide monthly calendars to print. Let your children decorate the calendar with pictures cut from magazines, drawings of their own, or family photos. When they’ve finished their artwork, help them mark important dates like birthdays, holidays, school breaks, and other special days. You may want to tie a crayon to the calendar with string so they can mark off each day as it passes.
Praise your child for being punctual. For some reason, punctuality seems to be especially challenging for teenagers. Offering enthusiastic compliments when the book report is completed early or the science project is turned in on time can give added motivation to start the next assignment.
Perhaps the most memorable illustration of concern for punctuality comes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. In it, the white rabbit frequently looks at his pocket watch exclaiming, “I’m late. I’m late. I’m late.” Cinderella fell into the trap of “just one more” when she continued dancing with the prince until the clock struck midnight and the fairy godmother’s magic evaporated.
- Wait for Me by Jane E. Gerver, is a book for very young readers. It discusses the importance of being at the right place at the right time.
- In On Time by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Brother and Sister Bear struggle to catch the school bus in the morning.
- The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague, uses imagination and an adventuresome spirit to explore the challenge of getting to school on time.
- Adults may want to consider Faster: The Acceleration of Almost Everything by James Gleick. Our society has sped up nearly every aspect of our lives. In addition to being an interesting look at the commodity we would all like to increase, this book also challenges the reader to examine how time spent.