How to Deal With a Teen Who Is Late For School Every Morning

Help your teen get ready for school on time.
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The older children get, the less likely they are to leap out of bed on their own at a reasonable hour. While teens should become more independent, sometimes getting out of bed in time to get to school on time becomes a bigger problem as kids grow older. 

Teaching your teen to get up and out of bed on time, even when they are tired, is an important life skill. Part of becoming a responsible adult is being able to start work on time and being able to show responsibility.

So if your teen is late for school every morning, intervene. Help them learn how to take on more responsibility for their behavior.

Nagging them, waking them up repeatedly, and pushing them out the door will only increase their dependence on you, however. So it's important to make them responsible for their own behavior.

Make a Plan Specific to Your Child

Whether your child hits the snooze alarm a few too many times, or doesn't even hear the alarm at all, there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to respond.

Children mature at different ages, and you should be less strict with a 13-year-old than with a 17- or 18-year-old who can’t quite seem to be ready early enough to arrive at school before the bell.

Your teen’s personality type also makes a difference. Some people simply don’t see arriving five to 10 minutes late as a problem—though your teen’s teacher might not feel the same way.

If your teen is late for school, take immediate action. Not only could it hurt their education, but it could also set them up for failure later in life. A teen who can’t get out the door for school on time is likely to become an adult who can’t get to work on time.

Share Your Expectations

Once your teen has faced a couple of tardy slips, sit them down to have a talk. Let them know what you expect, whether it’s that they are awake so they have plenty of time to get ready, or that they are ready to go with enough time to make the 8:30 bell.

Although your teen is getting old enough to manage their own time, it's also important for them to know what you expect. Say, "You're old enough to start getting yourself out of bed on time in the morning. I expect you to set an alarm, get yourself up, and get out the door on time without any reminders from me."

Problem-Solve Together 

Getting your teen out the door and to school on time may take a little bit of teamwork. Rather than fighting with them about being punctual, take some time to talk calmly about how you can make things better together. 

Identify the root of the problem. Is your teen overtired because they are staying up too late? Are they unorganized and running around to find things in the morning? Or, do they play on their phone in the morning, causing them to be late?

Use this as an opportunity to problem-solve together. You’ll teach them how to approach problems that crop up in life by brainstorming possible solutions and experimenting with different ideas.

Ask for your teen’s input about how they can be on time for school. They may have some simple or creative solutions that will help them get out the door in plenty of time.

Write down a few solutions, such as time-management ideas. Preparing lunch or filling their backpack the night before might give your teen more time.

Buy an Alarm Clock

If your teen is struggling to wake up in the morning, a new alarm clock might help them get out of bed.

Though you want your teen to gain maturity and take responsibility on their own, they might need a little support from you to get started on the right path. Purchasing an alarm clock can be a huge help in getting them out of bed on time.

Sometimes cellphone alarms aren’t loud enough. And your teen’s cellphone may be one of the things interfering with their sleep. Your teen may be staying awake too late because they are scrolling their social media feed or replying to text messages in the middle of the night.

Place the alarm clock on the other side of the room, so your teen has to get out of bed to shut it off. There are even trickier alarm clocks out there—ones that roll across the room so you have to chase them or alarms that slowly turn on lights to mimic the sun.

Address Potential Sleep Problems

Many high schools start very early in the morning and teens’ biological clocks aren’t geared toward an early start. But despite the debate over early school start times, most high schools aren’t budging.

So it’s important to support your teen’s efforts in getting plenty of sleep. Establish a reasonable bedtime and keep a consistent routine—even on the weekends. Don't let your teen sleep too late on non-school days, as it can interfere with their sleep schedule.

If your teen is getting plenty of rest, they will be better equipped to get up and out the door on time. So work with your teen on developing good sleep hygiene habits.

Charge Your Teen for Being Late

Create a consequence that will motivate your teen to get out the door on time. You don’t have to charge your teen monetarily, however. But if your teen receives an allowance, you can certainly dock dollars and cents for being late for school. 

You can also charge them in video game time, cellphone time or TV time. For every minute they are late for school—you can verify with the teacher, if necessary—they lose a certain amount of electronics time.

If you don’t want to involve the school, tell them that they will lose screen time for every minute they make you wait before they head out the door to the bus or comes out to the car in the morning. 

If you have to drive your teen to school because they miss the bus or don’t have time to walk, charge for your time. Assign a dollar amount for being your teen’s taxi and either deduct it from your teen’s allowance or assign extra chores to pay for it.

Let Your Teen Face the Consequences

As a parent, it’s tempting to get your teen to school on time if they are going to be late. If you take responsibility for getting your teen to school on time, they won't learn.

If they don’t make it into class before the bell, they get disciplined by the school, rather than a free pass from you. Eventually, they could receive detention or another form of consequence from the school—and those natural consequences could be exactly what they need. 

If the school contacts you about your teen's tardiness, explain to the administration that you’re trying to teach your teen responsibility. They might not be happy about your methods, but they’ll likely understand why you’re doing it.

A Word From Verywell

As frustrated as you feel about your teen’s tardiness, remember two key things. First, it’s not about you. You might think that it reflects poorly upon you that your teen can never seem to be on time, but it’s unlikely that your teen’s teacher or the school receptionist is judging you, as a parent, for the student’s shortcomings. 

Second, don’t forget that your teen has different priorities than you do. You’ve had years of work experience to make you realize the importance of showing up on time or facing the consequence, but your teen is still learning that importance.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Nemours KidsHealth. Disciplining your child.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Child development.

  4. Twenge JM, Krizan Z, Hisler G. Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among U.S. adolescents 2009-2015 and association with new media screen time. Sleep Med. 2017;(39):47-53.  doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.08.013

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Schools start too early.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.