When You’re Frustrated that Your Child is Dawdling

Posted by in No-Cry Discipline

“Let’s go!” “You need to hurry up!” “We need to leave!” Sound familiar? It is hard not to get frustrated when you are trying to get everyone out the door, on to the next activity, or ready for bed. It is even more frustrating when your attempts seem to slow everyone down even further rather than speed them up.

The first step in minimizing frustrations is understanding why kids dawdle, and then learning about what you can do to help…



Kids Live in Their Own World

After spending any amount of time with children, you can see that they live in their own world. It is a world that solely exists in the present moment, and children aren’t concerned with schedules. They don’t have the outside pressures of to-do lists and appointments, and they hate having their world hurried or interrupted. Children would rather keep enjoying their current activity than have to switch gears and move on to something else.

Honestly, it’s a shame that we can’t all be on “kid-time!” It sounds like a great way to live. We can learned from our children to enjoy things in the moment and understand that changing tasks can be very difficult for children. Why put shoes on when there are cars to race?


Taking It All In

Children have so much to learn about life in the first few years of their life. Everything is new and exciting and could provide important learning experiences. This is why children have shorter attention spans than adults. This is also why multiple step directions are hard for your child to follow; they keep getting distracted by other potential learning experiences! Keep directions short and simple so that children have a better chance of cooperating, which will decrease frustration for everyone.


Physical Development Factors In

In the first few years of a child’s life, they accomplish amazing feats of physical develop. They learn to crawl, walk, climb, jump, in addition to working on fine motor skills at the same time. As children’s physical skills develop, it can be frustrating for them to get dressed or practice everyday grooming tasks. Be patient with them, give them the opportunity to practice by themselves, and help teach them as needed. This might mean that you have to start getting ready much earlier than you usually would, but it will make everyone’s lives calmer in the long-term.




But how can we encourage our children to move a little faster…

Hopefully these reminders are a good start for increasing your patience. But since life doesn’t function on kid-time, here are a few ideas to help nudge your child to hurry up … even if it’s just a little.


Reconsider Your Schedule

If you are always struggling to get out the door on time, you may need to look into this issue a little further. Are you trying to do too much? Is your schedule too tightly packed? Are you procrastinating? Sometimes all it takes is slowing down a bit and focusing on the priorities at any given moment. Both you and your children will enjoy a less pressured transition time.


Sleepy Children Move Slowly

You might also need to reconsider your child’s sleep schedules. Children who aren’t getting enough sleep, lack energy, and tend to move slower and are less cooperative. Nap or bedtime adjustments could make a world of difference!


Be Clear and Concise

“Go get ready” is much to vague for young children. You will need to practice giving detailed directions in a step-by-step sequence. Most children will be able to follow one or two step directions, and then you can begin to build on these once they become more routine. This will seem time-consuming for you at first; however, having your child follow directions without either of you getting frustrated is worth it. And gradually this method will save you time.


Natural Rewards

I do not recommend offering special treats for everyday tasks; however, there are certain ways that you can spin things to help motivate your children.

“When your pajamas are on, we can read your new book!”

“When you get into the car, we can go to Grandma’s house!”

“When you clean up your toys, we can play a game together!”

These “When/Then” type statements work very well for children since they are clear, concise, and easy to carry out. Once you get into the habit of using this type of language, you will see things begin to go more smoothly.


Create a Map

Children love adventure and exploring so why not create a map, list, or chart with them for those everyday routines that are a struggle. Your children can help you make a map or chart for things such as getting ready for bed, leaving for daycare, or any other everyday tasks. Using images rather than words is usually helpful for small children who cannot read yet because they will not need to rely on you for direction.




What Not to Do

In addition to all of the things above that you should be doing, here are a few things that you shouldn’t do…

  • Don’t rush your child. Just because you are short on time, doesn’t mean that your child will move faster than their normal speed.


  • Don’t create bad habits. Children learn quickly from your own behavior. If you say that it is time to go, but then you get distracted by a few more tasks before leaving, your child will not take you seriously the next time that you say it is time to leave.
  • Don’t get frustrated. The more frustrated you become, the longer it will take you to get out the door. Children are more likely to melt down and not be cooperative if the parent is frustrated so try to stay calm, no matter how late you are.



For more tips check out The No-Cry Discipline Solution

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