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Dealing with a dawdler

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Accepting inherent traits

Is your child always late due to dawdling? I'm convinced that certain aspects of my kids are inborn. My daughter's sensitivity, my oldest son's sense of humor. My younger son? He's a dawdler. No matter what we do or what's going on, he takes extra time to finish, to get there, whatever. It sometimes makes me feel like tearing my hair out.

Mom Looking at Son

We need to get someplace, the bus is coming, the time is now... but from Woody, it's, "Just a sec," or "I still need to get this, that or the other thing." Even if we've asked him a half dozen times in the previous hour to make sure he's ready to go and he has assured us he is, there's still this last-minute dawdling. I used to think it was selfish irresponsibility; then I thought he was just highly distractible. Maybe that's an element of it, but now I think it's just the way he is, and we need to figure out how to deal with it.

Planning ahead

Of course, control freak that I am, we do a lot of planning and thinking ahead in this house. We have lists and checklists and organizational systems. There is routine, too, and regularity and communication. Those aren't the issues. We can and do have every bit of it in place. I could not function without it, and my kids are used to it, even Woody. We've talked about it all. And yet... there's this dawdling.

I suspect that, if we didn't have this level of planning and organization, the dawdling would be the same. Not worse, just the same. Woody is a mentally organized kid. His negotiations with me over, say, why he should be allowed to use the computer more, or why he should have more cookies, are numbered. Really! He'll say, "I should have more cookies because, one, I'm still hungry; two, I only had two cookies; three, my brother had three," and on and on. I wonder if the dawdling is an unexpected result of this high level of mental organization.

Being ahead

Finally, after much trial and error, we realized that the only thing that really worked was telling Woody that we needed to be someplace or do something five to 10 minutes before we really did. This worked great for several months until Woody started to realize we were doing it, and rebelled. "Why do we have to be ready early?" he'd ask. Then more dawdling.

At some point, I stopped fighting the dawdling so much. It's still frustrating and annoying, but it's a part of him that we'll be helping him manage for a very long time -- so I'd better get used to it to some extent. I try to keep us slightly but not obviously ahead of schedule so we always have a couple minutes of cushion time. It's not a perfect solution, but it's working for now. Eventually, Woody will have to come up with own way of dealing with this issue -- or he may just settle for being perpetually late.


Tell us: How do you deal with your dawdler? Comment below!

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