Dealing with Dawdlers - Advice for Parents of Twins

Five Ways to Discourage Your Multiples from Dawdling

Twin girls (4-6) carrying large holdall, mother packing luggage in car.
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Does your darling duo's dawdling drive you to distraction? Do you feel like you can never leave the house on time because your multiples are always lagging two steps behind, dragging their feet instead of putting on their shoes? Does it take your multiples hours to complete the simplest of tasks, such as picking up toys or putting on their clothes?

Preschoolers are infamous for dawdling and daydreaming, consciously taking extra time to comply with parental requests.

With two or more preschoolers to contend with, their procrastinating tendencies can really slow down the household's routine. Here are some tips for parents of twins and multiples, to help discourage dawdling:

1) Remove Distractions

With multiples, one of their biggest distractions is: each other! If only moms of multiples could bank a nickel for everytime their twins undid each other's good intentions: from competing over who would go first, to untying each other's shoe laces, to laughing at each other's antics instead of eating their breakfast.

The best approach is to divide and conquer, if possible. Have them get dressed in separate rooms. Enforce a "one at a time" schedule in the bathroom so that handwashing doesn't turn to havoc. Take turns picking up toys so they don't just play with them, or assign specific tasks: Joe puts away the trucks and Jim cleans up the board game.

Another big distraction: the television.

Turn it off. You can't expect young children to focus on the task at hand when the tv screen is flashing. It doesn't matter what's on - they'll stare at infomercials, weather maps or highlights from the 2002 PGA championship. Turn it off if you want them to tune in to you.

2) Make the Clock the Enemy

Do you sometimes suspect that your twins or multiples dawdle just to make you angry? It can become a way for preschoolers to control their environment, realizing that they can push your buttons with their delayed compliance to your requests.

To minimize your own frustration, make the clock "the enemy" or "the authority." Instead of "Mommy says we have fifteen minutes to get this done, or we'll be late!," the message is, "The clock says that it is 8:45 and we need to leave at 9:00." Even kids who can't tell time, can be shown how the clock's hands move from one position to the next.

Use a timer to make chores seem like a game. Use an egg timer or a digital kitchen timer that can be set in minute increments. The timer is a particularly effective tool for routines and activities that have multiples steps: Allot five minutes for putting on clothes and putting away pajamas. Set the timer for five more minutes for hair brushing. Add ten minutes for putting on shoes and socks.

A stopwatch is another fun tool for competitively-natured multiples.

Let them time each other's activities, or even your own! If Mommy can put her shoes on in less than two minutes, they'll be encouraged to keep up! Just beware of promoting speed over efficiency - there's no point in brushing teeth in record time if they're not cleaned thoroughly.

Give "five-minute-warnings" before ending playtime or transitioning to another task. Say, "In five minutes, playtime is over. Then it is time to clean up the toys." Or, "It's five minutes until bed time. Let's get your teeth brushed so that we'll have time for a story and snuggle before you go to sleep."

More Tips:

Here are some tips for parents of twins and multiples, to help discourage dawdling: (Go Back to Page One...)

3) Break It Down and Give Clear Instructions

One reason that preschoolers dawdle is that they're really not sure what's expected of them, or they're overwhelmed by the task in front of them. "We've got to get ready to go to school..." means one thing to moms, and a whole other process to preschoolers.

Give each child eye contact, getting down on their level if necessary. Repeat instructions to each child if necessary so that they understand their responsibility and can't use the excuse, "I thought you were talking to my sister/brother!"

For everyday routines, consider making a chart or picture list of tasks that need to be repeated on a daily basis. For example, a morning routine might include:

  • - Going Potty
  • - Washing Hands
  • - Putting on Clothes
  • - Putting Away PJ's
  • - Brushing Hair
  • - Eating Breakfast
  • - Brushing Teeth
  • - Washing Face
  • - Putting on Socks and Shoes

    Even young children can participate indepdendently in this routine, if the process is broken down into simple steps. Show them how to complete each item on the list, offer help (but don't step in!), and reward each accomplishment with lavish praise.

    4) Set Reasonable Expectations

    Your own behavior sets the tone. If you're rushing around crazed, your tension will be passed on to your multiples, making them more likely to dawdle and delay. Give yourself ample time to complete routines and get things done. If you're always trying to overcome impossible deadlines, they can't master the independent tasks that are so important to their confidence and self-esteem.

    Establish schedules and routines that encourage cooperation from your twins or multiples. Kids appreciate consistency; they like knowing what to expect from day to day. Finally, remain calm and remember that they are kids and have their own timetable. They are developing important skills during this time.

    5) Don't Do It For Them

    As tempting as it may be, don't step in and finish things for your kids because they're dawdling. Of course, it would be faster for you to pick up the toys so that you can get started on dinner. But it only serves as an incentive for dawdling; next time you ask them to pick up in the playroom, they can get out of the chore by simply waiting you out. Instead, set natural consequences. "Since you didn't put the toys away in time, we won't have time to stop at the park on the way home from our errands." They still have to complete the task, but they've lost a reward due to their dawdling.

    While dawdling and delaying is a normal tactic for preschoolers who are learning their way in the world, most kids grow out of it as they enter the elementary school years. Have patience. This "two" shall pass.

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