Time bandits

Stop, thief!

I got myself into trouble once from the mother of a child in my school lift [car pool] club: I accused her son of stealing time.

When we arrived to pick him up each morning, this young dawdler frequently kept me - and our car full of punctual students - waiting.

Even blowing the hooter didn't help much. Often, we all arrived at school hot and bothered - and late.

Perhaps I could have been more tactful with my complaint. But time is a precious commodity - particularly among families. And punctuality sends a message about yourself and how you value the time of others.

My husband has always been a stickler for punctuality. When he promised to fetch our lads from their boarding school (more than an hour's drive away) at half term or for holidays, he was there right at the hour stipulated. It was a way of communicating to our sons that our time with them was precious. Other pupils would have to hang around for hours sometimes, longing to get away and enjoy their limited time at home.

Since my husband is an early-to-bed type, his transport duties were typically limited to daylight-hours only. So, when the children were teens, the job of retrieving them from a party or some other late-night social activity fell to me. And I can report, with some satisfaction, that I wasn't kept waiting.

Why? Embarrassment is a powerful parenting tool.

They knew the drill: "Be at the gate at midnight or I'll come in for you in my night dress and curlers!"

Never did they let me or themselves down.

Learning to be on time has been outstanding training. As young adults, they are always on time for dates, work, or whatever. Their friends and employers can rely on their being where they say they'll be, when they say they will be there.

"Manners maketh man" is a wonderful truism. Punctuality certainly goes hand in hand with courtesy and politeness.

And it's not too much of a stretch to say that Moses did us a favor when he wrote down Commandment No. 8!

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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