Dealing with Dawdling

5 tips for getting your little slowpoke to pick up the pace.

Children operate on a different clock than adults and do not recognize the need to speed up when time grows short. To reduce the stress caused by your toddler's dawdling and inattentiveness:

  1. Identify Dawdling Moments: Determine when your need to hurry conflicts with your child's need to take her time, and try to adjust your schedule. If you find, for instance, that getting yourself out to work and your child to daycare frequently leads to frustration, build additional time into your schedule to allow for the predictable delays.
  2. Give Your Child Transition Time: Refocusing attention from one activity to another can be very difficult for some children. Give your child a warning that she needs to redirect her attention a few minutes earlier. You might put on familiar music and say something like, "When this song ends, we need to put on our coats and head outside."
  3. Maintain Rituals: Following rituals helps your child make the necessary transition from one activity to the next and reduces the stress that arises from not knowing what comes next.
  4. Make a Game of Keeping Up: To hurry your child along when necessary, set a timer or wind up a music box and say, "Let's see if we can pick up all the toys before the buzzer goes off." Then join your child in a race to the finish.
  5. Make Eye Contact: When your child appears to be ignoring your request to get moving, it is probably because she's engrossed in another activity and really can't focus on your words alone. Getting down on the floor with your child and looking directly at her helps her disengage from her activity and focus on you.

    From The Parents Book of Lists: From Birth to Age Three, by the editors of Parents magazine with Marge Kennedy. Copyright © 2000.