Kids, like adults, sometimes procrastinate because they just don’t feel like doing work at that moment. But sometimes, there may be other issues at play that are causing your child to take apart his spring-loaded pen rather than finish up his homework.
If you’re worried about your child’s excessive procrastination or if it’s starting to hurt his grades, it’s time to take a closer look at why he’s putting things off – and how to come up with a solution.
First of all, remember that procrastination is something we all struggle with from time to time. Were you searching for ways to avoid procrastination when you should have been finishing up that sales report for the meeting tomorrow morning? It’s all right. You’re not alone.
When your child procrastinates, it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t understand the assignment or hates school, or is suffering from ADHD. Putting off until tomorrow what can be done today is normal and common. But it’s still not an excuse for handing in homework late or skipping a study session.
So if you’ve walked by your child’s room once again to find him tossing a ball in the air, paper untouched by pencil, it may be time to step in and help. Your efforts won’t just help him crack down that night, but will also help him cope with the procrastination bug throughout his life, helping him achieve greater success.
- Chunk it up. Sometimes a huge project can seem overwhelming, but by dividing the task into smaller, more manageable chunks, your child will have a clear end in sight for each piece, giving him the confidence to get it started. For example, if your son has an essay due in a week, help him divide the assignment into smaller tasks he can do each day, such as research on Monday, an outline on Tuesday, the introductory paragraph on Wednesday, the body paragraphs on Thursday, and the conclusion on Friday.
- Create a more productive work space. Does your child lie on his bed while he reads or does math homework? Or is the end of the couch, right in front of the tv, his favorite spot? Some environments are obviously less conducive to productivity than others, but consider his desk or kitchen homework spot. Does it have good lighting? Is the seating comfortable? Are there frequent distractions in this room? Does he have access to the tools he needs to get the job done, like a pencil sharpener, scrap paper, a calculator, ruler, etc.?
- Dive in. We’ve all heard that sometimes just starting the project is the hardest part. If your child hasn’t even started, sit down with him and talk about the subject. Once the ball starts rolling, he may be able to continue on without even realizing that he’s “officially” started his work. Another approach is to set a timer and ask him to work as hard as he can for just 10 minutes. He’ll probably be able to get over his paralysis and may feel confident enough to keep at it. If not, let him take a break and jump back into it in another 10 minutes.
- Alleviate some pressure. Procrastination can be a symptom of both fear and anxiety over performance. A child may procrastinate because he knows an assignment is important and he doesn’t want to be judged harshly if he performs poorly. So he puts off the work until eventually, he can blame “not having enough time” as the reason for his bad grade. As a parent, you can help by telling your child that all you expect is for him to try his best. Of course, you’ve got to mean it and help him understand that you’re proud of the effort he puts in, not just the grade.
- Do the worst first. If your child is looking at a long night of multiple homework assignments and can’t seem to start on any of them, encourage him to tackle the biggest and hardest assignment first. It may seem discouraging, but the fact is, both kids and adults only have a certain amount of willpower and energy available to work on tasks. If he starts with the tough stuff when he has more energy and strength, then each task will get easier and easier and he’ll feel more productive.
When All Else Fails
If your child is still habitually putting off his work, speak with his teachers or guidance counselor. They may be able to help you determine if there’s more to the problem than meets the eye.
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