Dealing with the different speeds of your children
My husband once said I had only two speeds — fast and asleep. It's not true. I'm fast even in my sleep. People would ask him, a tortoise, how he kept up. He told them he didn't. He just got out-of-the-way.
And so it goes in many families with children, as well. In almost every family, there is someone shouting, "Hurry up!" and someone else lamenting, "Slow down, where's the fire?"
How do you avoid the frustration of dealing with so many different speeds: someone operates at 78 rpm, someone at 45 rpm, and someone at 33 rpm? For those of you who aren't old enough, you may have to look up that reference.
Is it fair to always be rushing someone? I'll share with you why not. I have a daughter whose IQ is off the charts. She is particularly good at math, but when she was in the third grade, they wanted to move her back because of speed tests the teacher gave her. It wasn't that she was mathematically challenged. It was that she went into a panic mode and froze up when she found out that the teacher was timing her. Her mind immediately went into, "What if I don't finish?" and not the problem solving gear on which she needed to focus.
Is it fair to hold back a whirling dervish? Not at all. These children are ready to take on the world, and you'd better get out of their way because they wind up extremely frustrated when they are held back. Classrooms all over the world are full of students who don't do well because they are bored with the pace of being denied their natural speed for students who need longer to complete assignments.
These are classroom examples. However, this happens at home, as well.
You're trying to get ready to go on a family outing. One child is at the door whining, "When are we leaving? I'm ready. I've been ready. What's the hold up? We're going to be late!" You, the mediator, are trapped between this child and the one who's still trying to find his shoes and isn't really looking because there's this fly on the wall that keeps hopping around. It can be maddening!
You can't change their speeds, but you can keep your sanity by teaching them the skills they need to make things run more smoothly.
For the slower child
Is she easily distracted?
Sometimes children are just so aware of everything around them they find it hard to focus on the task at hand. Try these tips from Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D. Keep the environment in your home calm, limit media distractions, have their vision and hearing checked, stay positive with the child, be "in the moment" with the child at least once per day, have clear rules and be consistent and enroll your child in some sport to channel excess energy.
Is he unorganized with his time?
In order to get them to organize, stay focused and get the job done, you should follow these steps according to KidHealth.org. Introduce them to the concept and outline, get them on board with the idea by explaining how they will benefit, set expectations, make a plan, be a low-key coach and teach them follow through by asking themselves questions.
Is he messy?
Sometimes it's just a matter of having a little mess cat who can't find what they need when they need it. Help them learn to keep their things in order by providing a place for everything, and give them a chore chart broken down into individual tasks (make bed, put books on shelf, put toys in box) to help them easily manage the chore.
Does she forget easily?
Help your children improve their memory in three easy steps. Amy McCready teaches to remind them to remember — once. Tell them they are old enough to remember and that you won't be rescuing them anymore. Then empower them by asking what they can do to help themselves remember. Finally, let them suffer the natural consequences of not remembering.
For the faster child
Is she rushing to be first?
Teaching them that life is not a competition can be difficult. These children tend to be fiercely competitive. Try explaining that when they rush, they often forget things that are important to the task, whether it is homework, chores or mealtime.
Is he anxious?
Explaining to him that no one goes until everyone goes and that if he pitches in and helps the slower child, everyone will be happier. Just make certain she is not bullying the slower child.
Does she have other things she wants to be doing?
This one is fairly simple to handle. She doesn't go or do whatever it is she wants to do until it is time. Period.
Have him take a breather
Time out has a bad connotation, but if you tell him to stop, take a deep breath and calm down, often it will give him the opportunity he desperately needs to center himself.
Creating and maintaining harmony in a family is sorely trying at times. Problems are exacerbated when everyone is running at different speeds. Children's behavior, however, can be tweaked through diligent and consistent training on your part. The effort will pay off in smoother and more peaceful outings, events and mealtimes. Here are some tips on dealing with sibling rivalry in adult children.