Speed Up the Dawdler



Is your family always running late? Do you find yourself frustratedly repeating phrases like “Hurry!”, “Let’s go!” or “Come on! We are going to be late!” every morning? Like many families, you may have a dawdler living in your house. Getting kids ready for the day and out the door, especially on school mornings, is challenging for any parent. But when you have one or more children who seem to take their time every morning, getting anywhere on time can seem impossible. Here are some tips to help you speed up the dawdler in your family.

Set limits

Typically, dawdlers are easily distracted. Many times I have sent my son upstairs for some socks and he has come back down barefoot carrying a toy plane. Reduce distractions by limiting toys and screen time (for both parents and kids) in the morning. Remind kids they will have plenty of time for play after school when their homework and chores are complete.

Make it a competition

Many parents have success getting their dawdler to pick up the pace by creating a game or competition for thim. Holly Searls, Olathe 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, Kansas City, KS, 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 your child on task.

Be prepared

Families have so many things to remember in the morning. Is there orchestra today? Practice after school? What’s for lunch? Do you have your math homework? Reduce the stress of these last minute questions greatly by preparing the night before. “Choices seem to slow us down the most,” says Krystal Laws, Olathe 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 feel more prepared the next morning and focus on the goal of getting out the door on time.

Get up earlier

For those children who need a little extra time, simply rising earlier in the morning may give them the minutes they need to meet departure time. “My daughter needs time to wake up and adjust to a new day. So we just had to start getting up earlier,” says Daniale Lakin of Omaha, NE. 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 for the day, 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,” Bright-Schaben says.

A dawdler can slow the whole family down or make them late. Try to encourage your child to prepare as much as possible the night before and get to bed on time. Kids who get a good night’s sleep have better focus the next day. If dawdling continues, let them face the natural consequences of their pokey pace. Although some of us tend to move more slowly than others—especially in the morning—teaching your children these skills will help them manage their mornings.

What Not to Do

  • Lose your temper. Try to remain calm; yelling and nagging will only train kids to tune you out.
  • Overuse phrases such as “Hurry up!” Telling your child to hurry usually does not speed him up at all. Try setting a timer for each task or giving 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, you are modeling that dawdling is the norm.
  • Give vague instructions. Instead of “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.

Mom of six Sarah Lyons lives in Olathe with her family.     

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