Help, my son is a slowpoke!

Dear Family Volley,
Our son is a slowpoke. It is impossible to get him out the door in the morning. It makes all of us late and I feel like we are always rushing and it drives me nuts. What can I do?

Mom of a Slowpoke
Dear Slowpoke's Mom,

You are not alone. This is a very common household problem. As a matter of fact, Our house has the same problem.

The other thing to remember is that your son is not doing it on purpose, to drive you crazy. He is simply moving at his own pace. A child's pace. This is extra frustrating in the morning when you are trying to get out the door.

As parents, we have to understand that expecting our kids to move at our pace is unrealistic and unfair.

Children are inexperienced. Getting ready and accomplishing tasks takes them longer than it does adults. We have years of practice under our belt, they don't.
Children are easily distracted. There are so many interesting things to look and play with between the breakfast table and his clothes up on his bed. Our son can find at least 10 different things to stop for. A child's shorter attention span makes it easy for him to forget that he should be getting dressed. He will literally take two steps from the table and find something distracting.
Children don't comprehend time. Young children live for the moment. They don't comprehend being late, hurrying, or all the things that have to be done to get out the door. They don't understand the time it takes to eat, dress, pack up and drive to school. Time relations are not real to a child.

So what can we do to solve the slowpoke problems?
1. GET A HEAD START. If there is one thing that you can do to help the situation, this is it. I know, it saves me every morning. Be sure you get up before your child and get started on your own morning routine. My husband always teases me because I get up so early, but I have to. If I can get up and eat breakfast, prep food for the kids, gather my belongings for the day and start getting ready myself. The morning is better for everyone. My goal is always to get my shower taken care of before any of the kids wake up. Then I can pay more attention to helping our kids get ready. It takes away much of the rush. Plus, it gives me a few minutes to myself. Time to think and prepare for the day. As moms, the more prepared we can be for the day, the smoother the morning will run.

2. PREPARE BEFORE YOU GO TO BED. Before you climb into bed at night, take a few minutes to make sure that things are ready for the next morning. Pick out your children's clothes and think through what you are going to wear. Make lunches, pack up backpacks and round up shoes and coats. I like to go as far as setting the table for breakfast. They seem like little things, but they make a HUGE difference.

3. GIVE YOUR CHILD TIME. Expecting your son/daughter to jump out of bed, eat breakfast while they are putting on their clothes, and brush their teeth while they are packing their backpack, WILL NEVER HAPPEN. We should give our children at least an hour to get ready and take care of the morning routine. The more time they have to work with, the better chance you will have of getting out the door on time. And, giving them ample time means that you don't have to pressure them to hurry so much. Wouldn't that be nice?

4. KEEP DISTRACTIONS AT A DISTANCE. TURN OFF THE T.V.! Keeping the television off in the morning is the first thing you can do to keep your children on task and eliminate distractions. Consider keeping other distractions out of the way. Favorite toys next to his cereal bowl will not make him move faster. Put away any toys or books that would keep him from staying on task. Helping your child as they get ready will also eliminate distractions. Don't micromanage, but keeping them moving through the routine by doing it with them, will really help. The other trick that helps our family, is dressing our kids right when they wake up. We prep their clothes the night before and they roll out of bed and put them on. You will be amazed at how much time it will save you in the morning.

6. WAKE UP CALL OF LOVE. When you wake your kids up, take a minute to sit on the edge of their bed and give them some special attention. Give them a hug, ask how they slept, talk about something fun that will happen that day. This will create a relaxing environment and make your child much more cooperative as your start your morning routine. Remember, nothing is more powerful than love.

7. MAKE MORNINGS FUN. Turn on some music and dance from the breakfast table to the bedroom to get dressed. You don't even have to dance, just having upbeat music playing will help everyone pick up the pace.

8. BEAT THE CLOCK: A GAME. Make getting ready a game. Set a timer for each task that needs to be completed. Make sure there is plenty of time for the task to be done so your child goes to school feeling like a winner, not a looser.  Have your child race the clock. The goal is to finish the task before the buzzer goes off.

9. INVITE THEM TO BRING IT ALONG. When our kids are playing with a "distraction", the last thing they want to do is put it down and leave it behind. So, I ask them if they want to bring the book or toy in the car while I drive to school, or to where ever we are going. By the time they have gotten in, buckled up and we start driving, they don't care about it much anymore. It is a good way to make a transition that is more manageable for child.

10. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Our kids are not going to speed up over night. The ability to move quickly and multitask (if that is a good thing?) comes with age and experience. We have to be realistic and remember that they are children, not adults. It is our job to help prepare them, and our lives, so that they can be kids, while preparing to grow up.



  1. My Mom said my little brother was this way. You couldn't rush him. So she would always try and act calm and when she was in a hurry she would keep her tone very calm so he didn't feel the rush and she'd usually get the timeline she needed but she gave examples of how she'd remind him of things to be ready and she'd check on him often (walking by type, not noticeable checking on) to make sure he was making progress. Don't know if it helps but it reminded me her experience.

  2. Sarah,
    Sounds like your mom had it figured out. Thanks for sharing. It is a good example of how patience and love see us through. They get us a lot farther than pushing and prodding.

  3. Good advice. I still have a slowpoke at my house...age 11!

  4. Forgot to say that I found you through SITS!

  5. My 3rd son is like that - so at his own pace. And you are right - the more you prod, the slower they go. Setting the wake-up time earlier is excellent - then as they realize that if they managed their time better, they can sleep later - then the hour earlier gets later. Wish I had read this 10+ years ago when he was littler! However, I have learned I still need to back off today on rushing. If he doesn't see the need himself, he just doesn't. I never realized putting on a pair of shoes could take so long! However, when he does decide he needs to hurry, he's like lightening.

  6. This is great encouragement for me. So often when I am trying to rush my son, I keep trying to remind myself how little and inexperienced he really is. It is a patience builder for sure.

  7. I just found your site, and I can tell I will be spending some quality time reading past posts to find better ways to help my family. Thanks for sharing your wonderful knowledge!

  8. I am a mum and I have just launched a parenting app for iPhones. It is called Quick Kids and was developed because I have a 7 year old son who takes forever to do almost everything - getting ready for bed/school, tidying his room, doing homework (the list goes on!) This App links an interactive count down timer to a star chart. Children are challenged to hit the stop button before the clock counts down to zero so that they get a star (and ultimate reward). This results in tasks being completed much more quickly, meaning parents do less moaning, nagging and shouting - making life a little less stressful!

  9. Just help your son
    Much worse when your husband is like this
    i had to divorce my


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