My Six-Year-Old Works Slowly

I have sort of an unusual problem with my kindergarten-aged (6) daughter. She is very mature, polite, easygoing and seems to have adjusted well to her classroom environment.

Recently, she told me that "I am slow, I am just a slowpoke." She mentioned this several days in a row and I finally coaxed out of her just what she was referring to.

It seems that during projects that require coloring, creating, cutting, tracing and redrawing letters and numbers, identifying matching or odd elements, she does very well but usually is not finished by the time the class is ready to move on to music, PE or recess. The teacher requires her to stay and complete her projects before she can go to the next activity.

My daughter is not the least bit upset that she is the only child left in the classroom and contentedly stays to finish up. It's almost as if she enjoys the quiet time. The problem has become more frequent and urging her to "hurry up" only seems to irritate her and dig in her heels.

I have considered taking steps to have her give up some privileges at home if she does not show some improvement. I also am disappointed that she is missing out on other activities in order to complete her projects. BUT it bothers me a lot more than it bothers her! She stills seems confident, independent and unconcerned that she is separated from her classmates and working on her own.

Can you offer any insight on how to deal with this situation?


Children work at different rates. While a child may be quite brilliant at math, art, or any other subject, she may take a great deal of time to complete the work because of a desire to achieve the best possible end-product. This can be frustrating to the teacher and the other students, but may not bother the "slowpoke" in the least because her intention is to do her best regardless of the time involved. Creative children (and adults) often have difficulty meeting deadlines because they can't just turn their creativity off. Still, the reality of our society is that people need to conform to a basic set of rules, one of which is meeting deadlines on time. School is not only a place for learning, but also a training ground for life. Teaching responsibility, punctuality, and respect for others is as much a part of education as the ABC's; therefore teachers try to respect children's individuality without compromising the rules or structure of the class.

Your daughter seems to enjoy the projects that she is assigned. Because she is taking pride in her work, I don't think that removing home privileges is going to resolve the situation. The reaction needs to suit the infraction, so to speak. One way to handle this would be to have her complete projects before or after scheduled class time at school. She won't miss out on the other activities and she is limited in the time that she has to finish her projects in class. Another approach is to have her finish any incomplete work at home. While that may require some extra effort on your part, She may eventually tire of taking her work home to finish it, particularly if she doesn't have the extra attention from the teacher. A third angle to work from is setting incremental goals. The teacher could use a timer or the clock to show her how much time she has to complete each step of an assignment. If the final step is not reached before the class transitions into the next activity, she will have to complete the assignment at home. One other idea is to use "special" incentives, such as a sticker chart, special work supplies, or other rewards. She may respond to the proverbial "dangling carrot" better than she is to the removal of privileges.

While you mention in your letter that your daughter does well in school, there is the possibility that she may be very challenged by the work. Talk with her teacher about her skills and abilities in the classroom and discuss any assessments that the teacher has done to gauge her development. There may be no cause for concern, but you should explore this possibility with the teacher. If the teacher feels that she is a capable and well- developed student, chances are that her behavior relates to a social or emotional need. If pushing her to finish causes her to slow down even more, that indicates to me a desire on her part to rebel and control this situation. Determining the reason for this behavior may help you eradicate it. Perhaps she feels lost in the class and is using this as a way to get the teacher's attention. She may be trying to avoid the activities that she misses following some of these lengthy projects for a reason. Does she seem to like PE and music? Maybe she doesn't care about missing them because she doesn't want to participate in those activities. If you haven't done so already, make some time to observe Kelsey in her classroom. Watch the way that she interacts with the other children and with the teacher. Firsthand observation may help you get to the bottom of this problem.

Most importantly, maintain good communication with your daughter. Praise her for the little things, as well as for accomplishing more challenging tasks (such as finishing her art project on time). Spend quality time alone with her each day doing something special, such as working in the garden together or reading special books. Review her school day with her each day by asking specific questions rather than open-ended ones ("What songs did you sing today?" versus "How was school today?"). Your interest in her education will guide her toward appreciating it. It may also give her some incentive to improve her work rate.

There is no magic cure for this, I'm afraid. I hope that the ideas I have mentioned here are helpful to you in resolving this situation.

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