Dawdlers

Some kids take forever to get moving. They take their sweet time getting up in the morning and must be reminded ten times before completing any given task. They take an hour or so getting a small sandwich down! And just when you think that they’re dressed and ready to go, they’re glued to the TV screen, wearing no shirt and only one sock on, begging for 5 more minutes. Dawdlers drive their parents mad. Unfortunately, the morning rush just won’t wait – school starts at 9. The evening schedule presents its own demands and deadlines – homework, dinner, bath & bed. . Yet dawdlers are oblivious, taking their own sweet time, moving in their own little universe. What can parents do to decrease dawdler-induced stress?

If you have a child who drags his or her feet in the morning or at other times, consider the following tips:

Helping Your Dawdler
Particularly, with young dawdlers, it’s fine for parents to gently move the child along – hand the child his shirt, point him toward the kitchen table and so on. Younger children might respond to incentives or races. Some dawdlers are “spacey” (and might benefit from an assessment to make sure that ADD or some other type of challenge, isn’t at play). If the child is otherwise healthy, the Bach Flower Remedy Clematis can help increase focus and decrease spaciness, leading to a reduction in dawdling behaviors. If the child is easily distracted from his focus, the Bach Remedy Chestnut Bud can be helpful. (You can learn more about Bach Flowers online or throughout this site). If you need to insist on performance (for instance, the carpool ride is coming and the child MUST be ready on time), use a fair form of quiet discipline such as the 2X-Rule (see below and in more detail in the book Raise  Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe).

Use Positive Strategies
Instead of nagging and yelling, parents can use positive strategies to help their slow-poke youngsters. While nagging and yelling can greatly harm the parent-child relationship and even increase mental health problems for kids, good-feeling techniques can strengthen the parent-child bond and facilitate healthy development while encouraging more appropriate, timely behavior.

Positive attention itself is one such strategy. As a child is moving (ever so slowly), a parent can NOTICE and ACKNOWLEDGE progress. For instance, the parent can say, “I see you’ve got one sock on. That’s a great start.” Every time the child completes a step of his morning routine, the parent can give this sort of positive attention. On the other hand, the parent should refrain from talking to the child about his slow behavior. For instance, when the child is moving slowly, the parent should NOT say, “Hurry up – you’re moving too slowly.” Rather, the parent should wait until he or she can make a positive comment.

Positive reinforcement can also be used. If the child happens to have completed a step in a timely fashion, the parent can offer a concrete reward. “I see you’ve finished brushing your teeth before 7:30 – that means there’s time for me to give you that special breakfast treat I bought for you.” Of course, any reward can be offered, such as an extra few minutes to watch T.V., a story, a game, a kiss or any privilege. When rewarding a timely step, the parent needs to ignore other aspects of dawdling. This means that the child might still be running late but has received a reward for being on time in the early part of the schedule. The trick here is to ignore slow and late behavior and only give attention and rewards to timely and prompt behavior.

The CLeaR Method (Comment, Label, Reward) can be very helpful as well. For instance: when your child is on task, make a positive comment (“I see you’re getting dressed!”). Then offer a positive label for the behavior (“You’re a fast mover this morning!”). Finally, offer a small reward (“I think you deserve an extra treat in your lunch.”). The label “fast mover” can be very helpful in building a healthier concept of your child as a person who CAN move efficiently. Be sure to NEVER use negative labels such as “slow poke,” “dawdler,” and so on. In fact, don’t talk about “dawdling” at all – never use the words “dawdle,” “dawdler,” or “dawdling.” The CLeaR Method is explained in full in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Consequences
Setting time limits can help reduce dawdling behavior. Limit setting can be accomplished with the ‘“2X Rule.” The first step of this rule is to give the time limit: “You have until 7:45 to brush your own hair.” Then, just before the deadline, repeat the limit and name the consequence: “It’s almost 7:45 sweetie – if your hair isn’t brushed in another minute, I’ll have to come and give it a quick brush for you.”  Even if the child would be angry, the parent would gently, kindly but quickly brush the hair if necessary. A steady rule can also be employed such as “From now on, if your hair isn’t brushed by 7:45, I’ll have to come in and give it a quick brush.” Such a rule can be employed for any deadline, varying the consequences: toothbrushing, bedmaking, eating, being at the door in time. The consequences must be delivered quietly, without any fuss, anger or upset. “You haven’t got any more time to make your bed, so I’ll be making it this morning and you’ll lose your T.V. show tonight (or whatever consequence you have pre-arranged with the child). When first introducing consequences to a dawdler, only concentrate on one deadline. After it is established, you can pick a second on and so on. The key to using consequences effectively is to let the consequence teach  the lesson, rather than using anger, lecturing and so forth (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for a detailed explanation on the constructive use of consequences using the 2X Rule).

Consider Possible Reasons for Lethargy
If your child has a tendency to move too slowly on a regular basis, not just during the morning rush, then consider possible medical and psychological reasons for lethargic behavior. For example, your child may lack energy and needs a carbohydrate boost. Or your child might be suffering from depression. Sometimes apparent dawdlers are really obsessors and ritualizers. If your child is taking too long because she does things over and over again to get them “just right” then a professional assessment can help you determine whether anxiety might be the culprit. If so, there are good treatments that can help put an end to the problem. If you suspect that your child’s dawdling is due to more than a bad habit, do consult your pediatrician or a child psychologist.

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