When I was a girl I loved the Miss Piggle-Wiggle books. That spry old lady was so creative in her cures for laziness, not-wanting-to-go-to-bed-itis and other childhood ills! When faced with a persistent behavioral problem I occasionally ask myself, “What would Miss Piggle-Wiggle do?” and I’d like to think that our new way of handling persistent dawdling would meet her approval!
Lately we’ve been seeing dawdling during schoolwork, job time and even over things like getting into the van and buckling in. It drives me nuts and it is a bad habit but my repeated pleas and commands to “stop dawdling” weren’t helping at all.
One problem seemed to be that the children didn’t have a good sense of how long various tasks should take. Assignments and jobs that got started slowly seemed to them to last forever and all motivation was frequently lost by the end of the first job or assignment. It didn’t help that job time around here is a bit like orchestrating a four ring circus. The big two can work on their own but need me to inspect and encourage them. Bull needs to be closely supervised as he is still learning to stick to a task and Jack loves to “help” his older siblings but can take things out faster than they can put them away. I needed some way of remembering that so-and-so had started a job five minutes ago and should be nearly done, while also keeping track of everything and everyone else!
Enter the post-it note and the kitchen timer!
Actually three kitchen timers and multiple post-its!
Before job time (we try to have three sessions of jobs each day) I write down 3-5 jobs for each child from a running list in my head. Next to each job I put a time in a circle. I then put the notes on the side of the dining room bookshelf and inform the children “It’s job time!”
Each child looks at their list (someone reads Bull’s for him) asks me any questions about it, sets a timer and runs off to do the job. If the job is complete, and passes inspection by the time the timer rings, that job is considered an “In Time” job, jobs that don’t pass inspection or aren’t finished in time are “Out Of Time” jobs and have to be completed before the timer can be set for the next job.
If a child has been working hard but isn’t quite done, or has had lots of “help” from Jack I will give a couple of extra minutes and make a mental note that the child needs more practice with that job or I need to give more time when I make the assignment.
If they work hard the jobs can generally be completed in about 30 minutes. Since we have a bunch of Easter candy right now, “In Time” jobs are worth one jelly bean each, but as we run out of candy they’ll be working for the right to wear a badge proclaiming them a diligent worker or something similar.
For my most persistent dawdlers I try to make a note of what slowed them down, so I can remind them of their choices when they are upset over not having gotten as many jelly beans as they had jobs. That does happen, but so far the next job session has been exemplary in the speed at which things have been done so I think they do get the concept. Best of all job time is much more peaceful now as I have no reason to fuss or nag, but let the timer do the parenting!
I’m working on something similar for school time and will let you know how it works!