Why do my children slow down when I ask them to “hurry up”?


I am a big fan of punctuality. It could even be said that I am too big a fan of punctuality. Any time we need to be somewhere as a family I tell everyone the departure time is about 20 minutes before we really need to leave knowing full well that they won’t be ready on time. Unfortunately my need to not be late has been known to result in me becoming a horribly stressed shouting monster. There has been more than a handful of occasions where we have started a day out or holiday with my partner (and before him my ex-husband) not talking to me because of my awful behaviour. I’m not proud of this and it is something I have worked very hard to change. 

2 children in school uniform walking to school in no hurry on broken pavement in the winter
My children are never in a hurry to get to school... or anywhere else


Over the last few months I have been questioning in my head "how important is it really to be on time?". School it would be a shame to be late for when M has a record of punctuality going back to when she started over 3 years ago, but nursery doesn’t matter. I’m not sure if they even record when people arrive slightly late. 

I consider being late for blogging and work events pretty rude, but no one seems at all bothered when other people turn up late. I guess one of the rare times it actually matters is if we have a specific train or plane to catch and that is a rarity. I have to remind myself that in most situations it is better for us to arrive late but happy than on time having made everyone cry. 

I am improving my behaviour, but I can’t help thinking it would all be a lot easier if when I told my children “we need to leave on time”, “we are in a hurry” or “please be quick” it didn’t result in them slowing their pace down considerably. On a morning where we are rushing to get out for school and I finally have everyone dressed and ready to go, if I say “to the door now please or we’ll be late” there is a good chance one of my children will turn round and head the opposite direction calling out “can I have a vitamin please?” or “I need a snack”.

You would think having grown up with a mother who believes punctuality is important my children would have some similar values, but it would appear that all the hassling I’ve done over the years to get them out on time, warning them we are running late etc, but we have still managed to make it on time or at least not noticeably late, means they no longer believe me. Does me telling them "we are running late" effectively result in me crying "wolf"?

An alternative option is my children, intentionally or not, love to do the opposite to what I ask. If I request my middle one should “walk a bit faster” her pace actually slows down. If I'm lucky maybe she’ll speed up for a couple of steps before going back to her previous pace or slower. 

Generally the only way I can make anything happen faster is if I make it into a game. I don’t like to “have a race to see who can get dressed first” because we have seen it result in sore losers, but unfortunately it is a tactic we have used over and over again as the best way to get some momentum.  We also set timers which can work better because everyone is racing together, but there have still been tears some days when the time has run out too fast. Why doesn’t time always pass at the same rate? Maybe that’s a question for another week.

For now I am going to congratulate myself on another week where we have made it to school on time every day and be grateful that it's the start of a weekend where we have no commitments.


If you enjoyed this you might enjoy reading the other posts in my Big Parenting Questions series.

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