I have a problem getting my 3 year old places on time. I feel that he is the king of dawdling. I try to allow extra time but it doesn’t seem to matter. And there are times when we really do need to be efficient. He doesn’t buy it. I often end up frustrated and he knows it.


Dear MJ,

Your last line “I often end up frustrated and he knows it.” held the clue for me. I suspect that this is really about a power struggle for your son and he has found a great way to win AND have you put on a show whenever you get frustrated. There is nothing more satisfying for a 3 year old than to push mom and dad so far that they put on a show. This is one of those “DECIDE WHAT YOU WILL DO, NOT WHAT YOU WILL TRY TO MAKE HIM DO” situations. As soon as you begin to try to negotiate with a power hungry child you are hooked and your clever child will continue to “reel” you in to see how far he can get. The only way out is to tell him at a neutral moment that you are on to his tricks and you have a plan. Your plan might look something like this: “We are leaving in 10 minutes to go to ______. Please finish your activity and get yourself ready. I am setting the timer. When it rings we are leaving whether you are ready or not. If I see that you are not ready I will not say anything, I will lead or carry you to the car, put you in your seat and leave, I will not be available for any conversation during this time.” Then hum and chew gum while you are doing it so your mouth will be occupied and you will not be tempted to fall back into your old pattern of coaxing, reminding and nagging. Take deep breathes and do everything you can to stay focused and grounded on the task at hand: to get in the car and stay OFF of the power struggle line your child will most likely cast out for you. Be strong, remind yourself that your consistency will pay off. Picture a great crowd of supportive folks around you backing you up. We will be there in spirit.