7 Ways to Reduce Dawdling

Nanny Confessions

I confess, I hate when kids dawdle! When they procrastinate it is easy to get stressed out. But I’ve learned that getting stressed, nagging, or shouting definitely doesn’t help kids become more organized or timely.

After working as a nanny for more than two decades two things I know for sure is that no children are perfect and all kids want to succeed and do well.

To encourage them to successfully be on time and procrastinate less we need to encourage them by modeling proper behaviors. We need to help them by being more organized and by using checklists, making sure kids are well fed and rested, by staying calm and not nagging, changing their schedules if necessary, asking children how you can help them, and giving them plenty of rewards and praise for being on time.

Dr. Paul Coleman, the author of How to Say It to Your Kids describes that we have all noticed that children who wake up the first morning in Walt Disney World don’t dawdle. They are motivated to be ready on time. But those same children procrastinate when getting ready for school or for bed.

Coleman also explains that instead of getting angry when children seem like they are ignoring your requests, consider that they may actually just be focused on an activity. This inability to transition from one activity to another easily is very common among young children, who lack the self-regulation and discipline to leave something they are engrossed in and go on to something else.

Dawdling may also be the result of personality. Some kids are naturally more inclined to daydream and may be easily distracted by something else. Also, children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD) are known to have trouble getting tasks started and completed. For children diagnosed with ADHD,  procrastination and not finishing tasks isn’t a choice.

Here are 7 Ways to Decrease Dawdling:

1. Stay Calm:

Getting stressed out just makes children more anxious. Yelling at them makes them feel badly. Our goal is to encourage good behaviors, not to criticize children.  So, calmly remind them, “Please put on your coat,” instead of, “Why isn’t your coat on yet?” or, “I told you to put on your coat two times already!”

2. Don’t Nag:

Nagging a child over and over again doesn’t help kids do better.  Instead, ask them how you can help them. Simply ask, “Can I help you do something so we can get going?” or “What is the next thing on your list you will be doing?”

3. Adjust their Schedule: 

If you know kids dawdle at certain times of the day then allow them more time for those tasks to be completed. If they are too tired to get ready for school on time in the morning, ask the parents if they can go to sleep a little bit earlier and wake up earlier on school days.

4. Well Fed and Rested:

Studies show that hungry and tired children cannot learn well. Hungry and tired children have trouble getting things started and getting tasks done. Make sure students have been fed healthy snacks and relaxed a little after school prior to starting homework. Hungry and tired children have trouble getting things started and getting them done.

5. Keep them Organized:

Knowing where coats, uniforms, shoes, keys, snacks, and school supplies are helps speed things along. Remind kids to put their items where they belong.

6. Checklists:

An easy way to decrease nagging is allowing children to follow a checklist by themselves. If you see children playing instead of brushing their teeth to get to school or doing their homework after school simply ask, “Have you completed everything on your checklist?”

7. Rewards and Praises:

Rewarding on-time behavior with check marks or stars that can be exchanged for something desirable can help motivate the child. Keep in mind that praise is essential and ultimately more powerful than tangible rewards.


How to Say It to Your Kids


  1. Kathie Bergen-Grove says:

    I agree with being organized- each night we lay out complete school uniform incl. shoes they just get up and dressed-no nagging from me! They are 6 and 8, and so proud of themselves( also beds are made before coming down to breakfast!)

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