How often do our children hear these words, or similar phrases? We live in a busy society. We are often in a rush. We have deadlines- but young children do not understand time. We have responsibilities. The young child is ego-centric, caught up in his own little world with himself at the center. We are bigger, taller, with great long legs. Little children have short legs and little feet that are often quite clumsy. We are focused on our to-do lists. He has almost no attention span. And so, there is conflict.
Sometimes, we need to remember what childhood is all about. Sometimes, we need to slow down and enjoy the moment of discovery as our youngster spots a caterpillar on a leaf, or a rainbow inside a bubble, or any of the thousands of fascinating things that hold their interest when all we really want them to do is hurry up! But there are times when we just cannot afford the time. So, when you really do need your child to move faster, how can you motivate him?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Never repeat yourself. If you do, you are actually teaching your child to ignore you the first time. Give a command and then expect your child to obey. If your child obeys, don’t act too surprised! But you can praise him for being such a good listener. Our children really only want our attention. If you don’t give it to him when he’s being good, he’ll find other ways to get it.
2. Ask if she heard you. Ask if he understood you. This is NOT the same as repeating yourself. By asking him if he understood you, you can discover if he is exhibiting willful disobedience, or a simple misunderstanding is keeping him from doing as he should. Willful disobedience calls for an immediate time-out, or whatever discipline method you use in your family. However, if your child did not understand the order, then you can get down on your knees, gently hold his head in your hands, look him right in the eye, and tell him what you need him to do, clearly. Again, praise him when he listens to you. If your child still fails to obey, then this is not a dawdling issue, but a defiance behavior, and will be dealt with in a separate article.
3. Give your child a deadline.
4. Find a motivation. This can vary greatly from child to child. Some children are motivated by food. For example, “You may not eat breakfast until you have put on your clothes.” However, some children do not wake up hungry and wouldn’t get dressed until closer to lunch time! Some children will work for a penny or a sticker, or even a marble. You can let him collect the marbles or pennies in a clear container until a certain level has been reached – then he can “cash in” all the pennies or marbles (be careful not to let him swallow one!) for an extra-special reward, like a trip to the children’s museum, or the carousel, or a pizza party.
5. Losing a privilege. This is a more negative approach, and should be used only after other methods have failed. But find something the child really enjoys – like playing video games (I hope not!), or going fishing with grampa. If he fails to do the activity you need him to do in the time allotted, then he will lose the privilege.
6. Shaping behavior. This works better with younger children. Instead of expecting perfection right off the bat, you break the ultimate behavior down into smaller steps. Back to our example of getting dressed in the morning, first you might just expect your child to put on his or her own underwear. Tell your child that from now on, since he is such a big boy, and you know he can do it, you want him to take off his pajamas first thing in the morning and put on the clean pair of underwear that you will lay out for him. This is one, simple, easy task. You will reward him greatly for compliance. You ignore non-compliance for a few days, then use motivation and deadlines, etc, until he does come to breakfast dressed in his clean underwear. Then you celebrate! You announce to everyone how PROUD you are of him. That he is SO BIG, that he even put on his own underwear that morning! You kiss him and hug him, and you make SURE that when you reward him with the next small step of getting dressed – pulling on a tee shirt – that he’s going to really try hard to do it! (Just make sure that when he does, you praise him, and don’t make him turn it around when he puts it on backwards.)
7. Use natural consequences. Sometimes this works, sometimes it’s inappropriate. If your child dawdles at breakfast, and it’s time to go, then a natural consequence would be for him to miss the rest of his breakfast. Don’t take it with you for him to eat in the car. Don’t swing through McDonald’s on the way to work and school to get him a quick breakfast sandwich. Let his hunger provide the necessary lesson, and perhaps he will eat a little faster tomorrow. However, if your child dawdles in getting dressed, obviously, you cannot just let him go to school naked!
8. Create more time.
Childhood is precious. Every single moment of it! So when your child is dawdling, sometimes, you need to learn from him. Sit down. Relax. And enjoy the moment with your precious child.