Question #2:

“How do I deal with a 5-year-old child who takes forever to brush his hair and teeth, put on clothes and eat, and do his homework when home?”

As adults, it’s difficult to realize what it’s like to have a child’s mind. Young children have very little sense of time, how to manage it, or plan it. This explains why many children struggle with doing routine tasks in a timely manner. Additionally, children often do not share our adult values in understanding the importance of things like timeliness, homework, or hygiene. This means that their motivation to do such tasks may be limited.

One way to approach this challenge is to focus on making time management more tangible for children. Since they lack a strong sense of time, you could employ strategies like a chart that lists all the tasks they need to do to get ready for school. This chart could include magnets or boxes to check off that the child could use to mark their progress through the routine. Similarly, you could try using timers or reminders on a smartphone to signal to children when to move on to the next task.

To help motivate children to complete their homework in a timely manner, it can be helpful to use an “if-then” strategy. For example, you could suggest to your child, “if you complete your homework by 4:30, then we will have time to play at the park before dinner.” This strategy is helpful because it provides motivation for children and helps them internalize time management skills. This approach teaches children that we first get our high-priority tasks done first (e.g., homework or chores), then we have time to do things we enjoy more (e.g., playing at the park).

It can also be beneficial for young children to allow a lot more time to get ready for events than you might expect. Children can get distracted easily, and tasks often take much longer to complete than anticipated. Plan as much as possible so that children do not have to rush through the routine. This will hopefully make your life much easier. 

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