How to Stop your Child from Dawdling

chidren dawdling

I recently asked my Newsletter Parents to tell me their biggest parenting problems.  Here was one of them:

Biggest Problem is dawdling!  My son is such a details guy, very sensitive, good for some things but try getting him out the door!  Who knew there could be so many obstacles.  A rewards program doesn’t work too well though, it just stresses him out trying to make it, it has limited success.  Same with getting ready for bed or anything.  Surely he will build rockets or something in depth and detailed with his habits but I just might go crazy trying to get him doing things in a reasonable amount of time.  Please do not use my name.  Thank you.

Dawdling is just another way of saying he’s disrespecting you.

Before getting into the solution I want to address rewards programs as I don’t believe in them.  NEVER reward a child for being respectful.  That implies that good behaviour isn’t the norm.  But, let’s say you’ve had a great week you can say something like, “Hey, we’ve had such a great week as a family, how about we go skating/bowling this weekend?”  So they are sort of getting rewarded but not directly for each task.

I was watching a mom in a store buying her kids chocolate at the checkout.  She was saying, “This is because you’ve been good today.”  So in other words they’re usually bad?  Trust me, kids pick up on these nuances.  

It’s like when parents are heading out somewhere special with their kids and they say, “If you’re good today you’ll get a treat.”  Again, that means they’re usually bad.  This pattern becomes a good way to lower their self-esteem.

I always just assumed my kids were going to be good, and they always were.  Never would’ve crossed my mind to remind them to be good.  Good and well behaved was their base line.

Okay, that took a bit of work to get that level of respect in the first place, but that’s what I’m going to go into now.

So, your son is disrespecting you.  Let’s use the example of getting him out the door.  We have to be very careful here and be specific.  Let’s say the rule is that everyone’s in the car ready to go to school every morning at 8:30.  That means you too Mom.  You break the rule and you won’t get respect.  Of course leniency is fine once you have respect, but we’re focusing on “getting” respect, not maintaining it.

Okay, now, the rule is 8:30 every school morning in the car.  You explain this to him over dinner the night before.  Wording is important:

“Johnny (not his real name), there is a new family rule.  Every school morning we will all be ready and in the car by 8:30.  Not 8:31 or 8:32.  We can be in the car earlier though.  If one of us breaks the rule there will be a consequence.  Let’s say I break the rule I will have to not talk for 24 hours.  What do you think our consequence should be?”

Imagine how much your son would love to discuss how to discipline you.  This should be a fun discussion, keep it light.  The consequences need to be something that hurts.  Being silent for 24 hours would kill me and my kids would’ve loved tempting me and watching me suffer.  Was actually a fun family event.  Kids punishments are usually something like media blackout (no tv, video games, phone) for 24 hours.

You have to agree on the consequences as a family, even shake hands on it, write it out on a chart (my 3SPP is great for this).

Here’s where you want to help set him up to succeed, not fail.  Old habits are hard to break so give him a countdown.  Start at 7:30 and countdown every 15 minutes leading to 8:30.  Keep it light a cheery and short.  “45 minutes to go sweetie”.

DO NOT get into a discussion with him about why he can’t be in the car by 8:30. Keep yourself busy and away from his stalling tactics.  Just get yourself in the car before8:30 and wait.  If he’s late then calmly say, “ooops, let’s do better tomorrow.”

Then follow through with consequences or else he’ll respect you even less.  He wants, craves and needs your leadership, don’t let him down.


Send me your Biggest Parenting Problem?  Please include your children’s ages and if you want your name printed, just let me know.  Can just be a first name which reads nicer when I’m answering.

Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach

Need help getting respect?  “4 Week Parenting Program” is starting June 5th.  It goes through all the basics on how to get respect and raise happy kids with Bonus Summer tips included.  Check it out here:  Toddler or Child.

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