Every morning before going to work, I walk our 4 years old son to the preschool located 15 minutes from home ; and his little brother too (in a stroller).
Every evening after work, my wife walks them back home.
Since a few weeks, our eldest son purposefully walks extremely slowly this path (saying his "legs are tired" for example). If we meet his classmates on the way, he will resume to "usual" walk, or even run with them.

In order to not be late for work, I tried the following:

  • Wake up and leave earlier
  • Try to walk different paths
  • Put him in the stroller with his brother
  • Stop and ask him why he walks slowly (he replies he is tired)

I would like to understand better his behavior.
Could it be due to a lack of sleep (he sleeps in average 8 hours at night, and has a 1-2 hour nap in the afternoon) ? A breakfast too light (juice, fruits and bread) ?
Does he want more attention ?

I would like to hear opinions or advice, especially from people who experienced similar situations.

  • 1
    My advice would be to walk normal and put him in the stroller (especially if it has 2 seats) if he cant keep up as a penalty. You mention the stroller in your question - was it not helpful to try that?
    – user7678
    Jun 10, 2016 at 13:45
  • @RachelC The stroller only has one seat, so if I use it little brother sits on big brother's laps. This does not seem very comfortable neither completely safe, therefore I try to avoid this solution.
    – wip
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:38
  • 1
    That makes perfect sense. I understand why it is not an option.
    – user7678
    Jun 11, 2016 at 2:14

4 Answers 4


One of my 4 year old twins "doesn't have any strength left" whenever he is told to do something he doesn't want to. This will disappear the moment he's distracted by something or someone he does like, just like your son.

He may be feeling this physically or not, but it definitely starts in the mind. For my son, it's most often that he was deeply engaged in something (games) and he still wants to go back to it. It's not always possible to prevent this, but when I can I guide him to a gentle transition, announcing a few minutes beforehand that we'll be leaving in x minutes and that he should finish what he's doing and not start something new. It helps about 90% of the time.

If it does happen, I try to engage his interest with conversation about something he likes or letting him show off all he knows by asking questions. This has mixed success and none if he's really tired.

The other likely cause is that there is something going on at the school that makes your son apprehensive and resist going there. Ask him, ask the teacher. As always with children, looking for any changes in the situation at home or at school often leads to the cause.

  • I will try to "distract" him with an interesting conversation, it sounds a good idea. I also asked him if there was something he did not like at school but he did not seem bothered with being there in itself. I will definitely ask the teachers though.
    – wip
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:45

I have a few suggestions, and from how his behaviour is described when he sees his friends, there isn't an issue at school. It seems like he just doesn't want to walk, but instead of getting it done he wants to resist the activity.

Bribery rarely fails; Children are usually very happy with even the simplest of rewards and little/often is the key. I can heartily recommend the use of stickers (you can buy sheets of hundreds cheaply) or an ink-stamper (which is something a nursery we use uses) to stamp their hand/wrist.

The ink-stamp takes a little while to wash off, but they won't lose it. Of course, they only get the reward if they get there in time. Use a phone or kitchen-timer and if you beat it then they get a stamp/sticker if they don't then no sticker but they can try again next time. If you need to amp things up a bit then keeping a reward-card, so say every 10 stickers gets them something (again, it only has to be small.)

It reinforces it more effectively if they have someone they can show the stamp/stickers to at the other end (like a teacher or someone who will be primed to ask about them.)

"Tiredness" can be boredom; 15 minutes is a looooong time when you're four and you're 'just walking', this would be supported when you notice when they meet their friends they're full of energy. A distraction can be the way to resolve it, games of spot-the-... or count-the-... or races (to the next lamp-post or some other nearby landmark.)

Failing that, the wheel has been invented; you have various motive options unless you're going through heavy terrain, you can add a buggy-board, put them on a bike (which you can then pull if they can't keep up) or a push-along scooter.


If he is not experiencing sluggishness in any other context, it would seem unlikely that that is it. Perhaps he is being lazy, seeking attention, or just amusing himself a bit. Even more likely, he is not really looking forward to starting the school day and is, in the way that doesn't seem so nonsensical to young children, "dragging his feet" a little bit in getting there. That apprehension might be something that needs to be addressed (does he seem to dislike school once he's there?); you may want to ask his teacher. But more likely, it's no big deal. A kid who doesn't bound eagerly into school in the morning isn't exactly a rarity. (I myself was like that for twelve years, and I got into a top college!)

If it does look like the only real problem is the behavior itself, you may want to ask yourself if it really is a big enough inconvenience that you must address it at all. As with all things child, if it can be safely be considered a harmless quirk and ignored, then by all means do so. But if it's too big an inconvenience to ignore, and yours is not the style that can simply "end it" because you are The Law, then I might actually suggest going to the reverse extreme and smothering it with attention! Make a fuss and be determined to get to the bottom of this, and follow through if needed. Does his breakfast need to be more nutritious? Does he need an earlier bedtime? Does he need a doctor's visit? Shall you speak with his teacher about his energy level in class, or if there's some trouble he's having there that's making him dread it so? You get the idea. He will quickly tire of being fussed over like this, and decide his little game was more trouble than it's worth.


Find something that he really likes to do and that you can do at the school's gate while you are waiting.

Make it clear that the sooner you arrive, the more time he will have for it. You'll probably have to leave home a few minutes earlier than you would otherwise need.

You have to stress the fact that if you arrive late he won't have time for it, but that it's not a punishment, just a fact of life.

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