I am reading a book, Lighting Their Fires:  Raising Extraordinary Children in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World, written by an award winning public school teacher, Rafe Esquith. He also wrote Teach Like your Hair’s on Fire, a must for faculty reading.

I find so much wisdom in both of his books. One of his first premises is that parents too often overlook an important concept in raising children: they need to be taught to value time. He writes that “children must understand that a person who appreciates time will be able to do exceptional things with his life.”

He starts with the importance of teaching punctuality as a way of life. It prepares children for all of the future deadlines that they will face: school assignments, applications for college, future job assignments—the list goes on and on. He also notes how often people who have not been taught to be on time disturb the people who have—at the theater, at a professional tennis match, in church, and at airports, among other places. He contemplates how often those who are late take out their frustrations on other people who had nothing to do with their misfortune—of having to wait until the scene ends, the professional tennis players change sides, the prayer reaches “Amen,” or of missing their plane departure and then screaming at the airline employee. Esquith sums it up with these words, “Being on time reflects a belief that we can control our own destiny, and that we are responsible for our actions.”

Our Episcopal school leaders and teachers struggle with the lack of punctuality of many school families. Often the parents’ attitude is, “What’s the big deal? He’s only in kindergarten” (or 3rd grade or whatever). I agree with Esquith that life-long habits begin at a young age, and the value of time, and being on time, should be learned in childhood. Instead of mocking school rules about timeliness, parents need to become partners with us in helping their children grow into people who “will be able to do exceptional things with their lives.”

Episcopal school mission and value statements center upon the concept of respect: for oneself, for others, and for God. Being on time reflects a fundamental respect for the other person whether it is the priest who leads the service, the actor who has studied and prepared his part, or the teacher who leads students in the daily rituals of the opening of the school day.

In your school, is the lack of punctuality by families one of your frustrations? What are the ways you handle this issue? I welcome your thoughts.