Back to School Bad Ideas

School Bus

The first couple of weeks of school are a critical time for establishing good habits and getting students off on the right foot. Here are a few things you might want to avoid as you send your children off this year.

Bad Idea...Because...Instead...
Hanging up every piece of art on the fridge.The space will become quickly overwhelmed.Designate a "gallery" for artwork in a hallway or on a large wall. Hang artwork with painter's tape to protect the walls.
Waiting to book a sitter for the school Open House night.Sitters book up fast at this busy time.If you need one, book a sitter now.
Letting kids randomly drop their stuff when they come in.Children are unlikely to automatically form a productive and uniform new routine.Be clear from the start, e.g. backpacks here, coats here, lunchbox here, shoes here, etc.
Taking the kids shopping for supplies and letting them pick out whatever they want.Some kids may not want to come and will complain. Others will want everything, whether they need it or not.Print the list and stick to it. If kids don’t want to shop, do it without them.
Scheduling every minute of every day.Children and parents alike need some "white space" to relax and deal with unexpected demands.Make sure everyone has some time each day with nothing planned.
Keeping the calendar in your head.Kids, parents and caregivers can all become confused about who needs to be where, when.Set up a central calendar (digital, dry erase or paper) where you record what is coming up this week.
Expecting kids to go upstairs and do their homework in their rooms.Many (especially younger) students like to do homework in the kitchen.Keep a caddy or rolling cart of supplies nearby that can be pulled out when needed and put away when it is time to eat.
Coming back from vacation on Sunday night.It is hard to transition from being away to being productive.Aim to get home by lunchtime on Sunday. If you must arrive later, set things up to be ready for school on Monday morning before you leave.
Using one bag for all activities.It is easy to forget items when constantly transferring items in and out of a bag.Set up one bag for each activity (e.g. swimming, piano lessons, library), and line them up along the floor or hang them from hooks.
Sending kids upstairs to brush their teeth and get dressed after breakfast.Children are easily distracted.Have them dress before they come down for breakfast. Use a downstairs bathroom for brushing teeth and doing hair. Once they are down, avoid letting them go back up.
Turning on the TV or video games before school.Children become engrossed in visual stimuli and are likely to stop getting ready for school.Put on a playlist that matches the time you have each morning. Let the songs become a “background countdown clock” to walking out the door.
Leaving preparations to the morning.You never know what craziness you might wake up to.Do as much as you can the night before (clean lunch boxes and put non-perishables inside, set out clothing, pack the backpack, etc.).
Assuming children are watching the time.Even kids who’ve learned to tell time aren’t generally aware of it on their own.Use a big clock, or a Time Timer, to help children the time passing.

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What tips do you have for parents who are sending children back to school?

24 thoughts on “Back to School Bad Ideas”

  1. All of these are great suggestions for back to school time and absolutely perfect timing as we have one week left before my girls return to a new school year. So thanks for the suggestions and reminders, too 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness…what a fantastic chart of tips! I love this one and know it will be so helpful to all of those parents that are in the midst of “getting kids ready for school” prep. I can’t believe how quickly the summer has gone. All of your suggestions are right on. I think the one that personally resonated with me most was about securing some “white space” in the schedule. Kids are busier now than ever with too much on their plates. Being able to relax and just be is an important part of life…for kids AND adults.

    1. I thought we were busy when my children were little, and we were, but today’s parents seem to have it even worse. We all cope better with life’s stressors when we can see some time coming in the day when we can switch “off” and relax. I know I need it!

  3. I really love how you structured your post with charts, making it easy for any family to follow. Also, I like when you said “Make sure everyone has some time each day with nothing planned.” I couldn’t agree with you more, the importance of having time just to relax, is just as important as having daily routines and structure.

    1. One of my favorite phrases is, “Everything is better in a matrix.” This is how my brain works… simple, clear as possible, actionable. The point about needing to relax resonates with me, so I hope others can see it too. We can only hold it together for so long and then we need to be able to crash.

  4. All great tips, Seana. I love your point about booking the sitter now for Open House night; I need to get on that! Wish me luck on Thursday as I send my Kindergartner off into the world! 😮

    1. Oh wow- big step on Thursday (for Mom and son alike!) I’m wishing you many blessings and a wonderful first day. Remember, it is a marathon. Save your energy… suddenly “after school” becomes a pretty busy time of day! Can’t wait to hear about it at our next meeting:)

  5. Shopping for supplies before school starts, because some teachers will have very specific requirements. Instead, make sure you have only the basic essentials so you’re not stuck with expensive items that won’t get used.

  6. Great list of tips on what not to do, Seana. I agree with you. Setting good habits at the beginning of school helps the kiddos. I do find that keeping those habits each year, helps the children feel at least a little less stressed about the other new changes that happen each year.

    My suggestions are: break up the shopping for several months over the summer. I found that buying school supplies at the end of July is more affordable. You can save money with coupons that may expire at the end of July.

    Try to move shopping for kids clothes until September. There are more deals, and usually, a variety of outfits are still available. Going shopping the day before school is like going shopping on Christmas Eve. It’s a madhouse. I did that once and will never do that again.

    1. My client today was just telling me that that very thing, Sabrina. She couldn’t believe the crowd at Staples. She literally left and came home to work on finding online alternatives. I agree about shopping for clothing. It is still warm most places… you don’t need your sweaters just yet, so give yourself a break!

    1. Thanks Dianne. I hope these tips will be helpful to parents. Many of them I learned through experience… especially the one about getting my babysitter early!

    1. We start a lot later up here than you do down in TX. Most of our kids start this week or next. I was just talking with a client yesterday about how important that first week is for setting up good routines. We spent a good five minutes discussing where the kids should come in, put their shoes and their bags. I suggested she be standing there when they get off the bus each day with the goal of making sure everyone follows this routine until they say, “Yes Mom, we know. Shoes here and bags here.”

  7. As a parent educator and an organizer, you have created an amazing list for families to consider, Seana. I’m going to be sharing this in my next parenting class and know it’ll generate some great discussions about setting boundaries, teaching responsibility and realistic expectations.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Susan. The beginning of the year really is that “critical window” for establishing good habits and managing expectations. If you can stay strong and be consistent, you can get everyone off to a good start. Good luck with the class – what a wonderful way to serve your community!

  8. Oh my – yes. I used to let them drop their stuff all over the hallway when they came in. Not anymore! We’re more structured, which is probably the answer to most back to school questions.
    And our Open House night is kid-friendly but we do need to book sitters for October conferences!

    I’ve had to tame the refrigerator magnet beast.. (me)

    1. Nice that you have a kid-friendly Open House night. That certainly makes it easier on all if children can come along! I broke the refrigerator habit when we had to get a new one that wasn’t magnetic.

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