Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dawdling: How to Live With It

Every great/grandparent has proclaimed, at one time or another: “hurry up, we’ll be late” or “this is the last time I’m going to ask you”. Families always have one or more: slow eaters, slow walkers, slow dressers, and/or slow workers (completing homework and other tasks).

Dawdling can easily become a source of aggravation and frustration. It’s especially hard when timeliness is of the essence and patience is decreasing by the minute (or second).

Dawdling 101
Children aren’t the only ones who dawdle…we’re all guilty of this at some point. Try to think back as to why you may have or still tend to dawdle. If you begin to understand some of the reasons for this behavior, it will make it easier for you to deal with the dawdling child. For example, June was a third child, and at family meals wasn’t fully engaged in the lively conversation of her siblings. So, she dawdled: she pushed the food around her plate, ate very little, and took her time. This attracted the attention of her parents and changed the focus from family interaction to attention to June and her slow eating.

This issue of “control” and getting attention are two of the many reasons that explain why children dawdle. Also, many kids are easily distracted and spend a lot of time daydreaming. They focus on what’s in front of them, only, and have a hard time “thinking ahead”. Others know what’s ahead, and don’t want to do it, and so they dawdle. Some kids are just slower moving through their lives.

Do’s and Don’ts with Dawdlers
Dawdling can certainly test your patience and ability to not “lose it”. If you can remember to use some of these suggestions, you may be able to deal with your great/grandchildren in a more calm and satisfying way.

• Try to figure out the situations that cause the most tension: eating, getting dressed, changing diapers, getting into the car-seat, etc. Prepare the children ahead of time, giving them as much notice and as many details as possible, and tell them what your expectations are.
-- For example: “We’re going to Aunt Nancy’s house today for her birthday party. After lunch, and playtime, we’ll change your shoes and get ready to leave by 4:00. I’ll let you know when you have to stop playing so that you can get dressed. If you want to bring something along in the car/bus, maybe you can go get it now and we’ll put it by the door.” Don't wait until the last minute. Talk about the outing during the day as a reminder. Tie it to something that’s part of their routine (playtime). Give as many cues as you can leading up to the time you leave. “We’re going to leave in 10 minutes. You’ll have to stop playing in 5 minutes, so that we have time for you to change your shoes and put your jacket on”. Then point to the clock/watch, so that they know the time is getting closer.
--If you have to help with homework, you can set up a visual schedule that provides time for work, and time for play, etc. And again, give as many cues as possible to make the transition from one thing to another.

• Explain to the child that you and she/he have certain things that need to be done. You don’t want to nag them, but you do need to have their cooperation so that neither one of you gets stressed.
-- “We’re meeting Mommy at her office tonight. We want to be on time and since there is a lot of traffic, let’s leave a little bit earlier so that we don’t have to rush. How about bringing a favorite book to look at while we’re on our way to see her”. In some cases, you may need to leave much earlier in order to not have added anxiety.

• Hurrying a dawdler doesn’t work. It can cause additional stress and the child may “dig in” and slow everything down even more, especially if control is the issue. Try to anticipate the situation, and provide some alternatives so that you can respect the child but also redirect the focus.
-- Dressing is often difficult for children. It can be about not wanting to do something or go somewhere or it can be about wanting to have the control to make their own choices. If this is a dawdling issue for your great/grandchild, you can offer them a limited choice of 2 things to wear (“the blue pants or the red pants”) ahead of time to avoid last minute temper-tantrums, or allow them to make their own choice (again with limits), even if it’s a fashion faux pas.

Dawdling can be frustrating, especially if you’re a fast paced person. Consider whether your great/grandchild is just naturally a slow paced person, or is unconsciously trying to manipulate or control the situation. Knowing this will help you reduce conflict. Put yourself in their shoes, and take one step at a time.

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