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Why do young children dawdle? Because they have not developed the skill of focusing on a task at hand, especially one that doesn’t particularly interest them.

They do not have a good sense of time or really know what time is. They hear your words, “I have to get to work on time!” or “I will be late!” but they don’t completely understand what “on time” means or why being late can be a problem.

Also preschoolers dawdle because they can be overwhelmed when Mommy or Daddy is rushing and the entire household is in a tizzy. The more you rush, the more they overwhelmed they feel and the slower they get.

Young children have the uncanny ability to sense the very thing that upsets us the most. Though they cannot define “power” they enjoy having the power to make parents…the big guys usually in charge of things…lose their cool.

Today there are millions of mothers in the work force and millions of fathers, including my son, who are the daytime caregivers. This means many parents out there are driven crazy by a dawdling child on any given school day. I remember trying to get my own two preschoolers ready for school so that I could get to the hospital on time.

My anti-dawdling advice: 1) Prevent Morning Rushing. 2) Try Old Tricks. 3) Keep Your Cool.

To prevent morning rushing, be prepared! Keep your morning pace as slow as humanly possible so that no one will feel unduly rushed. Set out the children’s clothes the night before and gather together all the things they will need to take to school. It helps to buy clothes that are easy for children to put on. I always organized my stuff the night before so I knew what I would wear and my brief case was good to go.

I also built some extra time into our morning schedule so that the inevitable unexpected could be accommodated. Maintain a morning routine your child knows what to expect when: wash up, get dressed, breakfast, brush teeth, check backpack, etc.

Tricks? Make a game out of things. My young cousin cured my son of dawdling when getting ready for bed by inventing “Break the World’s Record!” He proclaimed the last person who broke the world’s record got undressed in 5 seconds and challenged my dawdler to beat the record. Amid much hilarity with a stopwatch my son got undressed and into his pajamas in “record” speed.

You can also try “Beat the Timer” (“Let’s see if you can get dressed before the bell rings!”) Some dawdlers respond to” Grandma’s Rule” which says if you do X, you will earn Y. “If you get dressed quickly today, you will have time to play Lego before you go to school.” And many kids will go for the Gold Star Reward System. Award a star every morning the child is dressed on time. When the child has earned a whole week of stars give a treat or small toy. Don’t forget the very best reward can be special time-with-parent.

Keep your Cool! Avoid everything that not only doesn’t work but makes things worse like yelling, cajoling, nagging, threatening, etc. Don’t encourage dawdling by constantly telling your child to “Hurry up!” Dr. Spock writes that prodding children makes things worse by building up an “absentminded balkiness” in them.

Finally give yourself…and the kids…a break on weekends by slowing down the household pace.

Happy Parenting!