Dawdling means wasting time or being slow especially while eating, changing clothes, dressing up or when asked to do a task. Nothing new, right? We always like to think that that’s how toddlers are and it’s a part of their growing years. The good news is, yes, it’s a phase but it can surely be exhausting.
Some quirky behaviors, like dawdling, are a part of children’s developmental stages. However, in later stages of their life, dawdlers, in particular, are most likely to have two traits that can later work to their advantage:
- Their concentration is more than average because they are not listening to you but focussing on the task at hand. It’s confusing since we think that dawdling is just being lazy. Well, it’s not.
- They are able to keep themselves busy and don’t get bored easily.
When dawdling becomes frustrating, it’s better to ignore and take a deep breath. You can only do so much. Forcing, screaming or punishing your child is not the solution. The key is not to suppress his quirks, but to try and channel them to work to his advantage.
Why do children dawdle?
- The child is too small to eat or dress up fast because his motor coordination is not upto the mark yet.
- Children have no concept of time and are not aware of the time lapsed.
- Children dawdle most of the times because either they are disinterested or distracted.
- They find daily routine tasks like dressing up, bathing, brushing their teeth, etc. too boring and are more interested in playing or doing other things.
- Being unwell, seeking attention or being forced too much can also lead to dawdling.
What can you do to speed them up?
- Most of the children who dawdle, have a hard time transitioning to the new task. To solve this problem, give your child enough lead time to prepare to move on from the task at hand to the next one. For example, “It’ll be your dinner time in 10 minutes.”
- Remove distractions and let your focus on the task at hand.
- Make your child aware of the time lapse by reminding him of the time gone by. For example: “I asked you to open your shoes 10 minutes ago. Why don’t you open them now?”
- Instead of asking open-ended questions, give polite instructions. For example, in place of asking “Do you want to go to bed?”, just politely request “It’s time to go to sleep now.”
- Speed up your child by making the activity more like a competition which will have an immaterial reward or an incentive in the end. For example, “Change your clothes fast and then surprise daddy” or “Brush your teeth quickly and then you can play with your toys.”
- Instead of nagging or scolding your child for being slow, simply say what you see. For example, instead of asking “Why haven’t you cleaned your room yet?”, just say “I see your toys still lying everywhere in the room.”
- Always remember to praise your child when he finishes a task on time.
- Even though your toddler understands basic commands, it’s challenging for him to follow them if he is tired, hungry or overwhelmed. If he seems unwilling, break your instructions into smaller steps. Instead of “Put on your cap”, try “Go get your cap,” “Wear it on your head” and “Let me help you wear it properly.”
All of this seems quite challenging and more like a chore now, but these efforts will serve you well a few years from now when behavioral issues can be even more taxing.
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