3 Reasons Never to Say “Hurry Up” to Your Child

Hurry Up Blogographic

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.

20 thoughts on “3 Reasons Never to Say “Hurry Up” to Your Child

  1. I really enjoyed your post. Watching what we say, and how we say it are important. I don’t get to pin much to one of my favorite boards–happy to pin this.

  2. This is so important. “Leave more time to live” is definitely one of the lessons I have learned through the blessing of my children. :) Slow down and savor life. Rushing the children only tends to stress them — and us — out. In the rare occasion we really must hurry them, the best approach is usually pitching in a hand ourselves. ;)

    Thank you for this.

  3. I’m a new mother this year with two stepkids and a new baby girl on the way!! I find this so helpful to help new moms to find peace and happiness in stressful situations!! Thanks so much for motivational boost!

    • Thanks, Lucy! I’m glad you found it helpful! Congratulations on your baby on the way!

  4. The word hurry up comes from miners. Their carts were called hurries and when they sent them back up the line they would call “hurry up”. You see this is meaningless to children so when as parents you say hurry up to a child they don’t actually know what you mean, especially our little pictorial thinkers who have not yet developed understanding of your request to hurry. Using words such as run, fast, go…words that have physical meaning to children, I believe are much easier for our littleies to understand

    • That’s interesting! I didn’t know that. I do agree, though, that giving more specific instructions, like “run, run, run” do make more sense to kids than “hurry up”, but I think that even if the instructions are more specific, being rushed in itself can still make kids more tense/stressed than otherwise, unless they’re rushing because they’re really excited about something… At least for my kids!

    • Thanks! Glad it helped! I go back periodically and reread this post just to remind myself!

  5. An important advice for mothers like me that have to work being profesionals and moms at the sametime. We always want our children move at the same time than us and we do not realize that they are learning how to do things! Thank you very much!

  6. I know that telling your child to hurry doesn’t work, but I can’t figure out how to get my son to do things at a faster pace. My son is almost 5 and he’s a bright kid. He can read and write, has good social skills, is creative and affectionate… but he can really take his time. We often end up missing things entirely because he doesn’t get ready on time. If it’s something important, I make him hurry, but it’s a fun activity, then I let him set the pace. It usually takes him 1-2 hrs to eat. Everyone else finishes eating within 1/2 hr and he’s just left at the table by himself. During his quiet time, he almost always gets undressed and the rule is that he has to put his clothes back on before he can leave his room… there have been times that he stays in his room till bedtime because he’s only put on one sock. Washing his hands is also a big problem. I really try not to hurry him, but when we have water restrictions and he spends 15 mins washing his hands…
    And I know that I’m not expecting the impossible here. When he turned 2, he decided that I wasn’t allowed to dress him anymore, so he’s been doing it himself for almost 3 years. He CAN get dressed in about 2 mins. But he often misses out on going to the park or beach or other fun activities because he just doesn’t get ready.
    I would love to stop and smell the roses, we just don’t end up having the time to even get to the roses in the first place. I want to have fun with my son. These first few years are so precious. I hate it when I hurry him, but that’s the only time that we ever end up leaving the house at all. He’s so upset when he misses out on the park. But if it’s starting to get dark by the time he’s ready to go…
    The day sometimes consists of: Get up, eat breakfast, get ready for the day, eat lunch, nap/quiet time, eat supper, bedtime. There is no time to do anything else… unless I hurry him. I’m just trying to find a way of doing that without nagging him. Using a fun activity as an incentive doesn’t work. “As soon as you put on your shoes, we can go to the park” sounds fair enough. But I usually only have 2 hrs before I have to start making dinner, which, in theory, is plenty of time to spend at the park.
    I know I’m rambling, but I feel like I’ve reached my limit.
    I’m usually a very laid back person. I enjoy stopping to smell the roses, I love hugs and cuddles. I want to enjoy the little things… but I can’t spend 2 hrs sitting on an uncomfortable kitchen chair listening to him talk when he’s supposed to be eating. “Just hurry up and eat your food, then we can go for a walk and talk, or get out some crayons and color while we talk, or spread a blanket on the grass and watch clouds as we talk.” (that’s what I’m thinking, not what I’m saying)
    When he takes hours getting dressed before leaving his room, I don’t even get to see him. I feel like I’m missing these precious hours with him. And this happens at least half the time.

  7. Maybe some type of timer would work, for each task with a printed schedule with a time on a clock.

  8. Sounds like me! I’ve had ADD since I was a toddler and still do. Lol. Try distracting him with candy or s special surprise…something that he’s interested in. You have to make it fun or a challenge, or we lose interest like you wouldn’t believe. Best of luck!

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