Helping Dawdlers

Helping Dawdling Children
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Tomorrow I'm having surgery; since I'm busy prepping for that, I'm updating an older post, rather than attempting to write a whole new one. The good news for you is that instead of reading about my beginner's experience with dawdlers, I can now offer you 12 years of experience!

That's because my daughter is a Dawdler Supreme. I have never seen a child dilly-dally as much as she does. Throughout her life, I've tried a lot of things to help cure her of dawdling - primarily because (I admit it!) it drives me absolutely crazy! Some things have helped more than others, and even though she still dawdles, as she ages, we see improvement. So my first word of advice is:

* Remind yourself (repeatedly!) that teaching your child to get a move-on is probably going to take years.

Additional helps:

* Keep in mind the big picture. During those times when all you want to do is yell at your dilly dallier, pray instead - while remembering the ultimate goal is not to upset your child or make him feel bad, but to help him learn the joys of being punctual and getting work done.

* It doesn't help to give a lecture on dawdling when you're in the midst of trying to hurry your child. Instead, find a relaxing few minutes later in the day to discuss why it's important not to dilly dally. Talk about the negatives of dawdling, sure, but end with the positive effects of getting things done in a timely fashion.

* Ask yourself whether you're expecting too much. Is the thing you want your child to do age-appropriate?

* Break down the steps for your child. For example, if you ask a 4 year old to get dressed, she might get overwhelmed and not know where to start. But if you stand nearby and talk her through the steps - one at a time - I'll bet she can handle it. Yes, there are definitely times you'll need her to get dressed without your help, but before you can do that, you must carefully teach her how to do it.

* Help your child become a problem solver. When you're not in the midst of trying to rush, sit down with your child and discuss one area where he or she repeatedly has trouble with dawdling. Ask your child to come up with come up with solutions that either you or your child can implement.

* Sometimes dawdlers just need more time. For example, if your child takes forever to get into bed, maybe you need to start the bedtime routine earlier in the evening.

* Make it a race. Some kids respond well to competition, so you can say something like, "Whoever gets dressed first gets to [insert special reward here]!"

* Give your child a checklist. If your child is too young to read, simple pictures showing tasks like brushing teeth or getting dressed may help.

* Help your child recognize cause and effect. Sometimes saying something like "I see you've changed your clothes before 7:30. That's great! Now there's time for us to sit down and read a book together." Other times, you might have to gently say, "It's already 8:00. I'm sorry; there's no time for a book this evening."

* Teach kids clock awareness. Help your child become aware of the ticking minutes by saying things like, "It's 12:30. That's lunch time." And "It's 1 o'clock. Lunch is over." Another great project is to give your child a stop watch and a list of activities (like "toast a piece of bread," "prepare a bowl of cereal," and "feed the cat") and help him or her time each one. Most dawdlers have a bad sense of how fast time passes, and activities like this can make them more aware of time moving.

* Help your child notice time passing - without nagging. Say something like "You have 5 minutes to get your shoes on." At 4 minutes, say, "You only have 1 minute left, hon. If your shoes aren't on in 1 minute, we're going outside without you." It's important not to yell. Or repeat.

* Use a timer or - better yet - the Time Timer. The Time Timer (pictured right) has a red section that allows children to easily visualize how much time they have left. My daughter responded exceedingly well this little clock and we had good results with it. I even used it for her homework; for example, I gave her a set of math problems, set the Time Timer to a reasonable time limit, and told her to "try to beat the clock."

* Use a timer to help feel time pass. Get your child started with whatever job he needs to get done, then set the timer for, say, 10 minutes. Tell him this is only to help him feel time passing. When the 10 minutes have passed, have him evaluate what he's accomplished, if anything. Then set the timer for another 10 minutes...and so on. When I used this method, I no longer heard things like, "It can't possibly be time to leave yet! Only a minute has passed!" I don't believe that when my daughter said such things they were an exaggeration. I think that's how the passage of time really felt to her. We often say that our dear daughter just has a different internal clock. By using this method of noting how time passes, we are helping her to adjust her internal clock to become more in line with the rest of the world.

This original version of this post appeared in June 2011.

1 comment

  1. Good tips. I've had to learn these with my dawdler, and we continue with it still. You will be able to tell what learning styles she has by using a variety of tactics. For instance, if she does really well with the Time Timer, that may tell you she is a visual learner and she needs to literally see how much time she has. Timers work for my dawdler. Challenging races also work for her. And patience. A lot of patience on Mom's part while giving gentle reminders to finish her work. Check lists sometimes help, too.