Is your family always running late? Do you find yourself frustratingly repeating phrases like: “Hurry!”, “Let’s go!”, or “Come on! We are going to be late!” every day? Like many families, you may have a dawdler living in your house. Getting kids ready for the day and out the door, especially on busy days is challenging for any parent but when you have one (or more) children that seem to take their sweet time getting anywhere on time can seem impossible.
Here are some tips to help you speed up a dawdler in your family:
Set limits. Typically, a dawdler is easily distracted. Many times, I have sent my son upstairs for some socks and he has come back downstairs barefoot, carrying a toy plane. Reduce distractions by limiting toys and screen time (for both parents and kids) in the mornings. Remind your kids that there will be plenty of time for play after school when their homework and chores are complete.
Make it a competition. Many parents have success getting their dawdlers to pick up the pace by creating a game or competition for them. Holly Searls, mom of four, says, “We set timers for everything. There is usually a motivator connected to the timer. For example, if they beat the timer, they get to stay up later. A negative consequence may be losing TV time.” DeAnne Turley, mother of three, uses a sticker chart to motivate her kids. For example, if they are ready on time, they get a sticker and if they collect 30 stickers, they get a date night with the parent of their choice. Creating a competition or game out of each task in the morning is a great way to keep a dawdler on task.
Be prepared. There are many things to remember during school mornings: Is there orchestra today? Sports practice after school? What’s for lunch? Does a child have their math homework in-hand? The stress of these last-minute questions can be greatly reduced by preparing the night before. “Choices seem to slow my family down the most,” says Krystal Laws, mother of seven. “We pick out clothes the night before and lay shoes by the door. This makes the mornings run smoother.” Loading backpacks, packing lunches, and setting out any sports equipment or instruments the night before will help everyone in the family feel more prepared the next morning and focus on the goal of getting out the door on time.
Get up earlier. For children who need a little extra time, rising earlier in the morning may give them the time they need to keep on task. “My daughter needs time to wake up and adjust to a new day. So, we had to start getting up earlier,” says Daniale Lakin. For other families, if the parents are able to wake up earlier and get themselves ready and prepared for the day, the whole family has a more relaxed morning because there are fewer people who need to get ready at the same time.
Face the consequences. Even the most prepared family is sometimes late. Older children who tend to dawdle may benefit from facing the natural consequences that go along with being late or forgetful. “After years of arguments, I decided to put the ball in their court. If they are not prepared or punctual, then they suffer the consequences the school gives,” says Jessica Bright-Schaben, mother of three. “If they forget homework or to charge devices, they may have to stay after school. Tardies get them benched at games.” Teaching children that if they are late, they may face consequences or miss out on something helps them become responsible for how they manage their time. “They could block out my nagging, but when they couldn’t play or attend practice because of detention, they picked up the pace immediately,” says Bright-Schaben.
A dawdler can slow the whole family down or make them late. Try to encourage your dawdler to prepare as much as possible the night before and to get to bed on time. Kids who get a good night’s sleep have better focus the next day. If the dawdling continues, let them face the natural consequences of their pokey pace. While some of us tend to move slower than others, especially in the mornings, teaching your child these skills will help them manage their mornings.
What not to do
Lose your temper - Try to remain calm. Yelling at and nagging your child will only train them to tune you out.
Overuse phrases, such as “Hurry up!”- Telling your child to “hurry” usually does not speed them up. Try setting a timer for each task or giving them specific instructions.
Set a bad example - Are you an adult dawdler? If you tell your child it’s time to go and then stop to check your email, use the restroom, and grab one more thing before you go, you are modeling that dawdling is the norm.
Give vague instructions - Instead of saying, “Get ready to go” try, “Put your shoes and socks on right now” or, “It’s time to get in the car.” Kids need to know exactly what they are supposed to be doing at that moment.
Sarah is a wife and keeps quite active as a mother of six children.
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