For a busy adult with limited time, there are few things more frustrating than a child who seems to have no sense of urgency and no regard for the importance of getting things accomplished. If you’re tired of badgering your child to move faster—which doesn’t seem to help anyway—here are a few tips to help him or her become speedier and more organized in school and life.
Give your child checklists. Some children do much better when they have a visual to-do list that they can check off step by step. Create a checklist for any daily routine that seems to spark your child’s inner procrastinator. For a younger child, draw or write out the steps and laminate the checklist. For the morning checklist, for example, your child can check off each step with a dry erase marker—from getting dressed to making a lunch to checking that all homework and other items are in placed into his or her backpack before heading out the door. Older children might do well with smartphone reminders and alarms.
Plan ahead—and get your child to do the same. Whenever possible, do things ahead of time. If your child has basketball practice shortly after school, have him or her get out the gym bag, clothes and gear the night before, so that all he or she needs to do after school is change clothes and grab a quick snack. If the morning routine is difficult for your child, have him or her lay out his or outfit and get his or her backpack ready to go at night rather than in the morning.
Set time limits for each and every task. Some children are relatively organized, but slower than they need to be. If this is your child, set small goals for each task. For example, if a homework worksheet should take your child 10 minutes to complete, set a timer for 15. If he or she dawdles or gets distracted while getting ready for school, set a goal of getting to the breakfast table by a specific time. Then, set another goal of having his or her shoes on and backpack ready 10 minutes before departure time.
Keep an organized house and have your child do the same. Good organization and efficiency go hand in hand. When your child is disorganized, it’s too easy for him or her to lose things and overlook important dates, obligations and homework assignments—and these problems are only exacerbated by his or her tendency to move and work slowly. Encourage your child to embrace a reliable organizational system at his or her desk, in his or her room and anywhere else. This leads to less wasted time and minimized stress.
Have a frank conversation. Sometimes, the logical approach can work wonders. Talk with your child about all of the things that need to be accomplished each day by your child and by you. Explain that it is difficult to finish those tasks when he or she wastes 25 minutes on something that should take two, and that you want his or her help in keeping the household chaos to a minimum. Let your child know that the more efficient he or she is with time, the more time he or she will have to do fun things like play games or hang out with friends.
Build in extra time. The reality is that some children may just do things slower—from eating dinner to showering to completing school work. Do your best to establish and stick to routines whenever possible, but also be realistic about your expectations. Your child may simply be hard wired to move more slowly than you would prefer. Build a little extra time into your daily routines to accommodate and avoid the stress of constant scolding and nagging.
With effort, patience and practice, you can help you child become responsible and efficient with his or her time. Remember: all children are different, so while he or she may not do things exactly as you like, you can help him or her become a self-starter and an organized student and person. Those skills will stay with your child—and benefit him or her—for the rest of his or her life.