Do you have kids who dawdle? How many times a day do you hear yourself telling them to “hurry up”? Do they dilly-dally when you are in a hurry to get out the door? Do they dawdle in the morning when you are trying to get them to school on time? Do they seem to take forever to get their chores done when you are trying to get the house clean for company?
Kids who move slowly are not necessarily a bad thing, but in today’s hurried family pace, it’s easy for parents to get frustrated. Yes, it’s important for your family to keep up a work/family/activity balance, but it’s also important for children to learn self-motivation and direction, as well as time management.
Why are Kids so Slow?
Kids dilly-dally for many reasons. They are not good at multi-tasking, so it may take them longer to get things done. They are curious and easily distracted. Some kids are slower to respond to change; they have an unhurried personality. And for a very few kids, dawdling can be a passive way to get on mom and dad’s nerves if a child is upset at them.
What’s the most effective way to deal with dawdling kids?
Let’s start first with how you, as a parent, respond to a child who is taking waaaay too much time.
- Resist over-reacting emotionally. Your outburst can scare and overwhelm a child, as well as suggest to them that their dawdling behavior gets them attention.
- Avoid calling your child a “slow poke” or “dawdler” or “turtle.” Those labels will not motivate your child to cooperate.
- Do not offer bribes for your child to hurry up. This just teaches them to go slow if they want a reward.
- No humiliation tactics or embarrassing your child if they don’t move fast enough for you.
- Set a good example for promptness. Kids will do as you do, not as you say.
Now, let’s talk about specific tactics you can use to “hurry” your children along.
- Start by parenting proactively by daily giving your child the individual attention they need to know that you love them, whether they dawdle or not. Appreciate and comment upon your chlld’s strengths, rather than focus only on dawdling.
- Give your child a routine. For instance, if your child struggles in the morning, set a schedule that they go by every morning, so they know what to expect. In that routine, be sure to allow plenty of buffer time in case they are slow movers, so that you or your child are not stressing over being hurried.
- Try prompts to help them transition. A timer, music turned off or on, a phone alarm–these can be signals that your child may respond to more readilly than your nagging. Or have your child pick a signal.
- Talk with your child about what the definitions of dawdling vs. cooperation. In that conversation, discuss your expectations for their cooperation and what will happen if your child doesn’t respond. Let your child know that there will be consequences for their lack of cooperation. For instance, if your child dawdles and doesn’t make it to breakfast, you could say, “If you come to breakfast late, you will have to make your own and eat by yourself.”
The objective in dealing with kids who dilly-dally is to help them learn to manage their time and their behavior. So as you deal with this behaviorial issue, remember that your goal is long-term, to help them become teens, then adults who are self-motivated and able to manage their time well. It may take time for them to understand the imporance of managing themselves and their time, but be patient. Growing up is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
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