Managing time with a toddler can be difficult. Recently I been realizing how often I say “hurry up” to Charbel (2 ½)… When he’s getting ready for school, getting dressed, eating, walking… He has the tendency, like any 2-year-old, to get distracted and start playing or exploring in the middle of any activity. I have the tendency, like any mom with too many things on the to-do-list, to want to hurry him up so we can get more done in the day… The result is that “hurry, Charbel” comes out of my mouth way too frequently. A couple of days ago, as I was in the middle of “hurrying” him to get down out of his car seat more quickly, instead of playing with the window handle, I decided to stop saying “hurry up” to my children for three reasons:
- It doesn’t work. Rarely, if ever, does a toddler actually go more quickly when told to hurry up. Usually it actually results in the child going even more slowly because they get discombobulated and anxious, not knowing how to please you.
- Message the parent is trying to send when saying “hurry up”: Let’s refocus on what we’re doing. We have to move a little more quickly. Message the child receives when hearing “hurry up”: Whatever you (the parent) is focused on is more important than him. This disparity can easily be cleared up by simply eliminating “hurry up” from your vocabulary and using different ways to help your child refocus or move more quickly.
- The child doesn’t always need to hurry up. Sometimes we need to slow down. If you have lots of responsibilities and interests in life, constantly trying to hurry comes naturally – it lets you fit more in. But it also takes your focus off everything in life except your priority. Toddlers and young children have an incredible capacity for enjoying life. They appreciate the little things. They take their time because it lets them enjoy whatever they are doing right then, even if it’s just getting a drink of water or climbing into the car, more. Even though there will definitely be times when we do need to help our child move a little more quickly, there are also many times when we can learn from our child to slow down a little and actually enjoy what we are doing instead of just thinking about what we are going to do…
What to do instead…
Effective communication with your child and realistic expectations on your part can go far in mitigating the need to “hurry”.
- Break the task down into specific steps and direct your child to the next step. Telling your child to “take one more sip and put the cup on the counter” or “pull up your shorts and run get your sandals” is far more effective than telling them to “hurry up”. In this way, you actually help them redirect their focus and proceed forward.
- Motivate your toddler. When your toddler is excited about what’s coming next, “hurrying” doesn’t faze them anymore. They want to hurry and want you to help them move faster so they can begin what they want to do as soon as possible. If your child loves riding in the car, simply saying, “you need to finish getting dressed so we can go in the car” can be enough to help your toddler focus on getting ready and be diligent about it.
- Leave more time. Even a focused toddler takes longer to do things than we do. The need to “hurry” a toddler often results from not leaving enough time to begin with. When planning your time, think about how long something will really take with a toddler and budget in a little extra time on top of that for the unexpected last minute spill, diaper change, lost shoe, etc. If you plan based on how long things really take, instead of how long you wish they would take, you won’t need to “hurry” the same way, and both you and your child will be more relaxed.