It’s the First Week of School: 12 Ways to Get the Year Started on the Right Foot 

It’s the First Week of School: 12 Ways to Get the Year Started on the Right Foot 

It’s the First Week of School: 12 Ways to Get the Year Started on the Right Foot 

By Brian Goldberg, Psy.D, BCBA-D, LBA




The first week of school can be a challenge for parents and kids, alike. Many kids have problem behaviors, like tantrums, when they are told to do homework, told to turn off Roblox, or told to stop watching their favorite gamer on YouTube. However, there are things that you can do to set the tone for the whole year and reduce or eliminate the triggers for those behaviors. The below ideas can make a HUGE difference for your child (and lower your stress as well).


As a side note, these are general guidelines. All families and children are different. You might need to call an audible to make adjustments for you and your family. In some cases, it would be advised to seek professional support to manage behaviors associated with school-related routines.


  1. Establish a routine. Sure, things will come up, like appointments and all types of activities, but a ‘loose’ routine will help you and your child know what to expect next. For example, there should be no confusion that homework must be completed BEFORE screen time.
  2. Allow enough time to get ready in the morning. Nothing can be more stressful for a parent than rushing to get your child out the door for the bus. Have the backpack packed and ready at the door (sans lunch bag). This should be done the night before.Give your child the responsibility to organize and pack his backpack. Have your child ready for the bus at least 5 minutes before expected bus arrival time. Some time reminders can include: giving your child regular time reminders, reminding time left for ‘take off’, displaying a large visual clock, or setting a 5 minute bus alarm.
  3. No screen time in the morning. Nothing can be more stressful than trying to get your child off his iPad or xBox to go to school. You don’t want to start the day with a battle
  4. Have set limits for screen time after school. If there is not a specific amount of time for tablets and consoles (and phones), time spent can easily turn into Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors. It can never be enough time. You will start to hear all the comments in #2 above. Once amount of screen time is set, you could also increase/decrease these set times according to performance. Always best to use a timer to indicate the time remaining.
  5. Allow for an after-school break.  A lot of kids can be overwhelmed and/or exhausted from the school day. Decompression time is key for a manageable night. Allow for a short break, maybe 30 minutes,after school for your child to turn off his engines. This time can be used for a snack, ONE episode of his favorite show, or some other time limited activity. This break should not include screen time (any technology other than the television) because it could be a nightmare to get him off any device. This is the time we could hear the famous lines: “one more minute”,  “I’m almost done”, or “let me just finish this level”
  6. Require ‘real’ play. In 2023 the definition of play involves a screen, headphones, and oftentimes the absence of any other children. Yes, ‘play’ involves staring at a screen and pressing buttons on a controller and not spending time with another breathing human to share life experiences outside in the fresh neighborhood air.If you are going to allow screen time during the week, it should come with the sticker shock of spending time outside with people. No questions asked.
  7. Homework before dinner. The schedule should include homework before dinner. Kids and teens and parents) are spent from a long day. Tackling homework after dinner can be an uphill battle nobody wants to climb. The time after dinner should be for social and relaxation.
  8. Have a set amount of time for homework. A set homework time allows for kids to take their time and avoids rushing to get to what they want (usually a screen). Amount of homework time depends on age with older kids having more homework time. This time should also include reading and studying.
  9. Avoid ALL screen time an hour before bedtime. We already know screens  charge our system with a combination of the bright screens and the dopamine payoffs leading to stimulation. This can all impact sleep at a time when our bodies should begin powering off.
  10. Charge all devices out of the bedroom in a central location. If a child is sleeping, there is absolutely no need to have a phone or a tablet in his room. With notifications, facetime, and the overpowering temptation of these devices, these devices are a huge wrecking ball to quality of sleep, setting the stage for a challenging day ahead.
  11. Set conditions for sleep. Many parents give their kids melatonin for sleep and it might not be necessary, especially with recent hesitation regarding the use of melatonin ( In addition to turning off devices, activities should be calming to prepare for sleep, including less stimulating activities (doing puzzles, reading books, looking at pictures, etc.). It is also a great time of the day to lay in bed with your child and review ‘highs’ from the day and ‘hopes’ for tomorrow.
  12. Schedule for enough sleep. Your child probably needs more sleep than we expect. Sleep is a major factor affecting behavior and school performance. Expected sleep time is often related to age but can vary by individual. This chart offers a helpful guide




Dr. Brian Goldberg is a clinical psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He has a private practice in Commack, New York and is a consultant in school districts on Long Island. 

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