How To Deal With Dawdling

By in Parenting on 07 August 2009

As I help my daughter finish her breakfast, I can’t help but periodically check the clock for the time. Each bite that my daughter takes seems like an eternity. It is another school day morning and I am again rushing to get her to school on time. Of all the times that I ask her to help me out, it’s also the time when she’s most uncooperative.

Sometimes, I find myself taking deep breaths because my daughter seems so unaffected by my hurried efforts to get her ready. She’s just taking her sweet time and it gets to my nerves because she even has the luxury of time to do other unimportant things. Although today is not as bad as the others, I can’t help but wonder when it’s going to end. Each morning, it seems that we are always on a mad rush to finish our morning routine.

When a child dawdles, it can be tempting to let our frustration and our emotion get the better of us. But if you have already tried this, you know too well that it’s not helpful to both of you. In order to better handle this kind of behavior, you have to acknowledge first that it’s part of a child’s developmental stage. Hence, your response should be based on the fact that it’s not really your child’s intention to get you fuming mad.

It helps to remember that a young child is not really aware of the concept of time. So even if you apply different strategies on how he needs to move faster, he may see no point of doing so. He may even be more tempted to play with his toys than finish his half-eaten breakfast. As far as your child is concerned, he is just living with the NOW moment, and he is enjoying every minute of his newfound independence.

To prevent or at least minimize dawdling, try to create an EASY morning routine. Don’t squeeze in distractions in your schedule. If you allow your child to watch a short program on television while you prepare something else, it may be more difficult to ask your child to move on to the next task. If he needs to finish his breakfast, you need to make sure that his focus is not diverted elsewhere.

If you need to make small changes in the routine, it may also be good to start on a weekend so that the weekdays will be easier for both of you. Change is like a threat to a child’s security, and he needs to be given ample time to adjust. It’s also good to acknowledge that children live in a world of play. So even if you have so much to do to get ready, don’t forget to incorporate a little fun in your routine. You can make a routine of singing while your child brushes his teeth, or you can do role playing to encourage cooperation.

Preparing ahead can also save you a lot of your time and even your sanity during school day mornings. Make sure that your child’s things are already packed and ready before going to bed. If he needs to bring a snack, prepare it ahead of time so that you only need to take it from the fridge in the morning. These are really small things, but it really goes a long way in terms of allowing you more time to do other things.

More importantly, you need to prepare your child for the following day’s activities. Communication is essential in making your child understand why you need to hurry up in the morning. Explain to him the consequences if you are not able to make it on time, so you can encourage him to cooperate. If you find yourself on the verge of losing your temper, remind yourself that it’s just a stage that will soon pass. Make the most out of it and be creative in devising strategies so you can just get your little one moving.

2 Comments For This Post

  1. Nerida says:

    I agree with your advice. My daughter is a dawdling champion and it took me a long time to work out that I was calculating how much time was needed to prepare for something (like getting ready to school) based on how long I needed. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
    Now I understand that she needs longer. So I get everything ready the night before – breakfast table set, clothes ready, bags packed – plus I get us all up 30 minutes earlier.
    We still run late sometimes, we still forget things, I still find myself grinding my teeth…but MOST of the time, we get out of the house ok. And that’s all you can ask for really, don’t you think?

  2. Jane Heiza says:

    I totally agree. Sometimes, it really doesn’t matter if my daughter’s pigtails aren’t perfectly tied for as long as we get to her activity on time. It’s always a process,and I have allocated extra time for her just in case she’d take longer to finish. When our daughters have mastered the art of dawdling, we have also become quite skilled with multi-tasking. I guess this is indeed normal. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


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