Parenting

Dawdling Kids – Why Do They Dawdle And What Can You Do To Speed Them Up


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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.

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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.

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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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27 thoughts on “Dawdling Kids – Why Do They Dawdle And What Can You Do To Speed Them Up

  1. ohh God, I face this challenge every day. My daughter dawdles a lot and I always think why she does so? what should I do? what happens to her? Why she loves to get scolded all the time? I get all my answer now

  2. I always thought that I had an exceptional case at my home. my son takes years to dress and always has to run and dance before dressing up. this was really insightful

  3. I didn’t knew what dawdling was. Most of the times, I ignore the lazy attitude of my preschooler. Talking to them and motivating them is something I always try to do.

  4. That’s a nice way to connect with our kids and yes I do agree we should appreciate them for finishing their work on time, it will motivate them

  5. Such an important topic on child behavior often overlooked or misunderstood by many parents. Many kids dawdle and it’s also considered normal and a learning phase for a certain age. We, as parents need to understand how to deal with it. You have covered all the important points and this will be really helpful for parents who struggle with this phase. Thanks for sharing, Surbhi!

  6. Now this was something really interesting! I used to dawdle a lot as a child… Didn’t know these were the possible reasons… Now I know how to react when I see another kid doing the same!

  7. Being a parent teaches you one thing daily and being a blogger makes one more informed. I guess I am walking on both the ropes and with blogger friends like you who pick topics like these, so intricate and detailed, I know I am being educated every step of the way.

  8. Great tips for dawdling kids. My son is really lazy when it comes to any task related to his studies. He is 4 right now. However when he is asked to play, he is quick. I am still going to try the tips for study time. I try to remove distractions as much as possible but he gets distracted even from a car outside on road.

  9. There are some great tips on upbringing kids in right way.. a must known things for new parents.. shall share this one..

  10. Dwadling kids face so many issues, that’s very difficult for parents to tackle this situation. These tips will definitely help to combat this.

  11. Been there, seen that. It’s really a very frustrating phase for parents, forever urging their toddlers to hurry up. Good tips, shall surely help new mothers. Pinning your image!

  12. My daughter still dawdles while eating and she is no toddler! Have tried different approaches and in the end I am yelling at her. Just need to find a way out.

  13. great tips … my daughter takes an eternity to finish her food … but yes the key to managing them without tantrums and showdown is to be positive and calm with them. #MyFriendAlexa

  14. This was such an eye opening post. My son is forever dawdling and I have lost my temper many a times becasue of this. But in light of this new information, I am going to change my approach towards him now.

  15. This is such a useful article. I thought it was my child only who dawdles and actually it can get very frustrating.

    I am definitely going to address it with patience now onwards.

  16. At times the dawdling gets frustrating for us, but yes the key points you mentioned help in kids breaking of their slump. Thanks for sharing the insights.

  17. This post has turned up right of the perfect time for me.. Much needed indeed.. Thanks for tips.. Though I am following a few.. Would definitely give a try to others too

  18. A detailed post indeed! My kid is in this phase so I would try and use these tips to help him speed up his tasks and not be frustrated while doing so.

  19. Dwadling can be frustrating for parents. I haven’t faced that as such with my son yet, but he takes a lot of time to eat! Because half the time he says no food!

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