Kids that need micromanaging - how can this be avoided?

My nine-year old seems to need “micromanaging”. For example, in the morning, when left to her own devices, she will not brush her teeth, nor clean up her dish after breakfast, nor do her bed, and she will waste time reading a book or doing something else, and be ready for school very late. So late that she ends up late for school.

I assume not all kids are like this, although I suspect quite a few are.

What can we do so that she learns to be responsible and not need to be told “brush your teeth”, “get dressed”, in order to get ready for school on time in the morning?

Can anything be done? Is this just typical behavior for a nine-year-old? Should we worry about it? Should we not worry about it?

Does having any kind of chart or check-list help? My 6 year old finds it very useful to have a chart of things to do, so that she knows what things she needs to get done. Of course that doesn’t always help with getting her from one task to the next, without getting distracted in between…

How does she feel when she’s late for school? Embarassed? Or does it not bother her at all?
In other words is this a problem she knows she has, doesn’t like, and is having problems dealing with? Or is she in denial that there is even a problem?

I’m of the opinion that talking to children to learn their motivators can be a very positive step. Sit down with her, when she’s not distracted by other things, and discuss with her what you’d like and get her opinion on how she can achieve those goals. She might need a clock in her room that’s easy to notice, or a checklist on her door for the things she needs to do before she leaves for school and an approximate time those things need to be done. She might need help to establish a routine, or even just get up a bit earlier each morning. Or later, so that she never has time to goof off in the morning.

Most kids find that when they don’t do stuff, their folks get into a tizzy, yell at them a little, and then bend over backwards to make things all better so that they’re not perceived by teachers and other parents as bad parents. This encourages micromanaging or “helicopter parenting”. Except for a little temporary yelling or nagging, there’s no real consequence or learning opportunity for the kid, because the parents have made it their problem.

I found the best thing to do is to back off. Don’t make it your problem. Talk with the teacher, explain your new parenting strategy, and let your daughter be tardy and take the hit. If her grades can take the hit, then perhaps the teacher needs to find a consequence with real teeth, like making her stay after class the same number of minutes helping out, or staying in that long at recess time to “pay back the class” for the minutes she stole in the morning. But the bottom line is that her school performance isn’t about you.

This isn’t to say she’s totally on her own. But she needs to come up with a solution to her tardiness. And remember, it’s always fair game to say, “Dad, I don’t know how to solve this, will you help me?” THEN you can suggest charts and stickers and alarm clocks and whatnot, and she can try what she thinks will work. But until she’s accepted that this is her problem, and she’s got the power to fix it, you’re not going to win. It’s going to keep being your problem, and she’ll just keep assuming that you’re going to clean up her mess - literally and figuratively.

Teeth brushing, IME, is just a never ending nag fest. It’s gotta be done, no one wants to do it, and you’ve got to tell the kid explicitly, twice a day, “go brush your teeth now.” My son is 15. I’ll let you know when he starts brushing his teeth on his own. PERHAPS, at 9, a toothbrush or toothpaste that she picks out will make it more appealing, but probably not for long. We did have a bit of success requiring him to pay for his own fillings (a result, the dentist testified, of his not brushing well or frequently enough), but ideally you want to prevent needing those fillings in the first place.

For the dishes and household chores issue, I found rewording things to be helpful. Sounds silly, but, “We’ll watch television after your room is clean,” goes over better than “You may not watch television until you clean your room!” The first is positive and empowering - it says what you CAN do, the second focuses on what you CAN’T do. It’s stifling, and authoritarian. Think about how you feel at work when your boss says, “If we meet our sales goals for the third quarter, I’ll pop for a pizza party!” vs. “There will be no more company sponsored events until sales goals are met.” The first makes you think, “OK, cool, we can do that!” The second makes you think, “Fuck you.”

For these and other parenting theories and techniques that I stole, check out the books in the Parenting With Love and Logic series.

My neice is the classic example of the lazy always-late kid. My mother had her for a week and took her to school once in her pajamas. She was never late again as long as my mom was taking her (I’m sure she pulls all kinds of crap on her parents who let her.)

Have 4 more kids, that worked for me and my micromanagement…

Sorry that wasn’t very helpful. I echo Whynot, let them take responsibility for themselves.

It is typical behavior with my 9 year old. She knows what she has to do but I need to go back and tell her for her to move her butt. I wake her up an hour before we have to leave for school. She puts on her cartoons and I put her breakfast in front of her. Every time I pass by, I need to tell her to eat. When she is done eating, I tell her to get dressed. After that I need to tell her to go brush her teeth. It is the same every day.

I think the reason she is never late is because I give her an hour to get moving so she gets to be a slug and still make it on time,

And yes, I know this is no help. I am just commiserating.

Yep. I told my kids at the start of this school year that I would not be yelling at them to get ready or micromanaging their time in the morning any more.

“You’re 9 and 10. You can tell time and you know what you need to do.” It has reduced my stress level by about 200%. They were both late once each and missed the bus. I drove them and talked the whole way about how upset I was that they couldn’t manage their own time and be ready for the bus. It hasn’t happened since.

I sometimes give little reminders like “15 minutes till bus time” and the like, and that’s it. I made it clear that I would make their breakfast and pack their lunches, but that they were responsible for packing their own snacks, agendas, homework, etc. and getting themselves ready. It seems to be working now.

I do check for wet toothbrushes though. :wink:

Thanks for all the replies.

It seems that the overall approach should be:

  • Don’t micromanage, let her get ready by herself.
  • If she is late in getting ready, don’t get upset at her, just calmly take her to school and let her suffer the consequences of being late to school.

The above approach should be good, since she doesn’t like being late for school, though I think it leaves some gaps:

  1. She could avoid things like brushing her teeth and declare herself “ready to go to school” on-time. How should this be addressed? There is no immediate built-in punishment for not brushing your teeth (long-term, there are consequences, but not on that day)

  2. She could be late for non-school activities, e.g. we are visiting family friends, so there is no built-in punishment for being late. Do we leave her home alone if she is not ready on time? She seems too young for that.

I have had this problem with my daughter from a young age. I made up a 1-page checklist with cute pictures on it, laminated it, and let her check things off with a dry-erase marker every day. She really liked the idea that she had a list of her own responsibilities and could keep track of it herself. It worked for the everyday personal tasks like the ones you mention.

Now at age 12 she has mastered teeth-brushing :wink: but still needs guidance to make sure she has got all her homework done before moving onto other things. Once in a while we still get the 6:30 AM “oh no!” when she realizes she forgot to bring something home or forgot to work on something due that day.

There are ways you can support children like this but after 12 years I have concluded that there are some things that are just wired into their personality and you have to learn to manage it and live with it but never change it.

Have her brush them twice at night to make up for it. Of course, it doesn’t really make up for it, but she’ll learn that it’s “pay me now or pay me later.” (BTW in this context we like to talk about “consequences,” not “punishment.”)

Yes, too young, and possibly not mature enough. How about withholding something she wants to do until after she’s ready? A reward instead of a punishment? Find something she likes to do (I prefer not to use food as reward/punishment) and dangle that in front of her if she’s ready on time.

(My 10-year-old son is the polar opposite. Highly motivated and really understands the concept of “if I get my homework done now then I will be free of guilt while playing on the Wii later”).

Yeah, the tooth brushing thing is a hard one. Consider whether it might be worth it to delay breakfast, instead of leaving, until after toothbrushing is done. Sure, it would be best if she brushed out the cereal bits after eating, but it’s more important to get the overnight plaque off (the bacteria that cause plaque are anaerobic - they multiply more when the mouth is closed for a long time, like overnight). So she can have breakfast after she brushes her teeth. And if she goes to school hungry a day or two, my guess is she’ll scoot her butt a little faster to the toothbrush on the third day.

Late for non school stuff, I think you’re better off packing her into the car in whatever state of not-ready she’s in. Bring along an outfit for her to change at if you’re a softie, but let the embarrassment at showing up in bunny slippers to that friend’s house with the cute son be the teacher.

I did once leave the kid behind for a very brief outing around that age, but if it’s not to go somewhere she’s looking forward to, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Stay home and play video games instead of going to boring ol’ Aunt Edna’s? Sign me up!

For Eldest we set time benchmarks for when things needed to be finished in order to get out the door on time, then worked out how early he needed to get up to accomplish all that without being hurried. Then he set his own alarm clock and I set the kitchen timer for the benchmarks. It took about two weeks or so (and one trip on his bicycle to school in the wintery rain because he missed the bus) to get him entirely independent. * He still gets dressed and out the door on time by himself.

Youngest however is impervious to any natural consequences I can dream up and would probably find it interesting to go to school in his jammies. So for him the only motivator I can find is to tell him that either he does it before the time benchmark or I will do it for him. There is no nagging or yelling though+, and also no warnings. He has had the warnings already, he knows. The only thing he really does not like is to have me do it – dress him, brush his teeth, or wash his face.

All of which is to say, the consequence, natural or otherwise, is where my mileage varies substantially. This has always been true – for one kid the consequence of acting up in a store was staying until I was done, for the other it was leaving immediately.

Skipping steps (like brushing teeth) means you are not ready so you cannot go yet. It’s not a punishment, just a reality. The only variation on this for us is that if they fool around and don’t eat breakfast then they go without breakfast. Thsi is because the chances of vacuum cleaner 1 and 2 skipping the chance to inhume everything not nailed down in the morning is vanishingly small. It’s almost the only character trait they share, that morning low blood sugar.

  • *I intentionally waited until winter to do this. In good weather we normally go to school on bicycles, in winter we take the bus. It’s not onerous to ride your bike in Holland in good weather. In Winter it can really suck. *
  • Ideally anyway. Well, okay, no nagging or yelling except on bad days. On bad days I have been known to raise my voice. But at least I know I shouldn’t, right?

Sounds to me like the cartoons are a problem. No TV in the morning might make everything go a lot better.

Seriously! When I was little, no tv, books, toys or anything that was not directly involved in getting up and out the door!

You’re probably right. I could certainly have her get ready before she can put the television on. She is like me though in that we both need a while to wake up before we are ready for the day. I think if I told her she needs to get dressed and eat first, I would find her back asleep in the chair in seconds.

However, I may just experiment with that. Worth a shot.

Again, I think it is more of a time thing I allow for. I mean if I woke her up with just enough time to get up, get dressed, eat and get out the door…that frantic pace would ruin both our days. Personally I need to get myself up at 5am to leave the house by 7:15. I starting waking up the kid at 6am (with PBS on for her to get interested in enough to open her eyes.) However, she doesn’t really do anything without being told once her attention is on the television.

Fortunately, being late isn’t an issue. The nagging for her to get ready is…

Foxy40, maybe you could set a deadline? Say get her up in time to watch one half-hour show, then the tv goes off until she’s completely ready to leave?

Well, I agree that she needs to be responsible for herself. I’m just going to tell you my system in case you find it helpful. Also, our system for morning chores includes getting everything but toothbrushing done before breakfast–the kids don’t eat until they’ve gotten dressed and so on. So that’s our consequence, that you don’t eat until you’re done with the jobs.

Right now my kids have each job on a list, which they then wear while they’re doing the jobs.* Morning jobs are very simple: get dressed, make bed, brush hair, empty dishwasher–every single one is written down. They can’t take it off till the jobs are done, and only jobs are to be done while the list is on–and it’s the first thing they do when they get up. An older child is not going to want to wear the list, so once it’s memorized you can let her take it off unless she starts forgetting or skimping. Then it’s back on, which is its own consequence. I find that my 8yo will do everything just fine, while the 5yo still needs lots of reminding (some of this is still theory for her, and she eats breakfast pretty late sometimes).

I would say that if she’s late getting ready to go someplace besides school, she can miss dessert or a fun activity. “Sorry, we don’t have time to do that, you still have chores to do.” Treats and fun are privileges, and they can be lost.
*Wearing the list: each job is on a card, the cards are in a packet, the packet has a clear front and is worn as a necklace. Like an ID tag at Intel or someplace.

Not to hijack Polerius thread but I tried this advice this morning and it worked very well. I told her she could turn the TV back on when she was completely ready for school. When I came out of my room dressed for work she sat completely ready with the tv back on waiting for me!

Wow, what a concept. New routine at Foxy’s house. :smiley: