A Better Start to the School Day: One Thing You Can Do On the Way To School


The Importance of the Journey to School

Whether you walk to school or the bus stop or drive your child to school, we all hope to have a pleasant start to the day together. We hope to set the tone so our child heads into school with confidence and we head off to our day feeling good too. But many of the things we do actually create the opposite effect. 

What Gets in the Way

For example, we remind our child of the many things that we want them to do when we cannot be there…”Turn in your permission form!” ,”Remember to ask your math teacher when you don’t understand so you can do the homework”, “Please eat your sandwich so you are not so hungry.” We do all of this in an attempt to protect and care for them, even when we are not there. And while our kids do need some reminding, chances are the reminders for things that are later in the day can create anxiety and stress for our child. They can’t do it right now…so its less of a reminder and more of a worry to hold in their head.

Another thing that can derail a day is an attempt to address the things that went wrong getting out the door today. If we are running late, or have forgotten something or feel rushed, we want to solve it. And while you certainly may express why you are feeling stressed, this is likely not the time to resolve the morning snafus. Make a note to discuss later how you might make your morning more efficient. However, commenting about how late you are, how your child should have eaten when you called them for breakfast or wondering why they are not wearing the outfit you chose…are all unhelpful and will leave you feeling disconnected from your child as you head into the day. 

And you also might be tempted to solve lots of things for your child before school starts, asking why they are not getting along with a friend, or what they should do to eat lunch on time. But this is usually fruitless at the time and is also likely to increase stress. 

So what should you do? 

When you consider that we need a ratio of 5 positive forms of feedback to each constructive, the best way to actually build confidence, increase the likelihood of success at school AND feel positive and connected as you start your day – the best thing you can do – is to point out what is going well that morning. For yourself and your child, point out specific things you have done. It’s not effective generally telling your child they are awesome or “good job”. By pointing out what you all did do well that morning, authentically and specifically, you can create a positive culture and your child is more likely to head into the day with confidence.


How to Give Positive Feedback that Builds Confidence and Connection


Not all positive reinforcement is the same.  Avoid the labels, such as “You are a good listener/helper/student or so kind/smart responsible.” Even a positive label can be flipped in their head if they are not successful another day. Instead, point out what they have done well, specifically.  For example, “You went and got your shoes the first time I asked.” or “You remembered your cleats, without me telling you to get them.“   And rather than general terms “You have been doing really well at school this fall”, instead point out a specific way they did well: “You finished your homework each night this week”. 


What if you feel like everything is not going well….

You are running late, your child did not finish their spelling homework, or eat breakfast and there was a fight over the middle seat. Look for the things you all did well. Feel free to start with yourself. “Everyone has a lunch! I feel good I got those made”. And here are some ideas for things you might see your children do:

“We made it to the car.”

“You are dressed for school. Thanks.”

“You remembered your bag and the permission slip is in there.”

“Thank you for giving your brother the middle seat.”

“You brought your breakfast to the car. I am glad you won’t be hungry at school.”


Find the things that were done, and focus on those…

as you are more likely to build the confidence and momentum to continue to put effort in…and you recognize the many things we all have to do and remember each day. It’s hard. So for your next ride or walk to school or the bus stop, keep that one thing in mind. If you remember to offer specific positive feedback, you can impact the whole day. 

And since you still need to resolve the challenges around getting out the door and more, go to

Raise Children To Rise: for parents, educators and school leaders

And learn more about Mariposa and our method to create the culture and relationships children need in a stressful world.


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