Teach a Child How Not to Procrastinate



e all procrastinate at some time or another with something. Children procrastinate for similar reasons adults do. It could be that there is a lot to do, or maybe something is difficult and overwhelming for them. Whatever the reason, procrastination can be a paralyzing feeling for a child.

If you are wondering how your child’s procrastination is affecting them, ask yourself:  “Is your child experiencing more stress from their procrastination that is negatively affecting other aspects of their life (academic, emotional, social, physical)?”

It is important for a child to know that procrastination is often a process of self-awareness and not something to beat themselves up over. If your child feels stuck and can’t find the self-initiative to get started on a task that needs to be completed, I would suggest to have them peer into the future and feel when something gets done in a timely manner and how that would make them feel, as opposed to waiting and waiting and how that would make them feel.

Homework procrastination

If a child struggles to commit to a regular routine for getting homework done in a timely and efficient manner, provide them with options. If they can’t make up their mind, you choose for them. For example, if your child is notorious for waiting until the last minute Sunday night to do homework, give them an option to do their homework on either Saturday right after breakfast or Sunday right after breakfast. Once the homework is complete, then they will be allowed to engage in fun, playful activities for that day.

In general, all technology (phone, internet) or any distractions should be out of reach while doing homework. If your child insists that they have to do their homework using the Internet, ask them which subjects need it along with the specific online requirements to complete those assignments. Monitor your child’s time spent on there and if need be, set a time frame for the Internet usage.

The most important step, and oftentimes the most challenging one, in completing homework in a timely fashion is having a child physically put it out on the table. From there, you can help your child manage the completion of their assignments. Start by dividing the homework into smaller tasks. The child should write down what needs to be done on the paper, starting with a relatively easy task and moving towards harder ones and finishing with the easiest or most interesting one. Ask your child to cross out a task on the paper as soon as they are done with it. That will give them a sense of accomplishment. What this is all doing is teaching your child how to set goals, break down tasks, and monitor progress.

Procrastinating in general

As I said before, waiting until the last minute to do things is not something unique to children. However, kids respond better to concrete requests, such as “Take your dish and glass and put them in the dishwasher before you go to sleep tonight” vs. “Don’t leave all your dirty stuff out.”

To help a child understand the magnitude of their actions and how they affect others, remind them of a specific instance when you promptly responded to their needs, without delay. You can have a conversation to reiterate the same expectations for them and proceed by asking them if it all makes sense and is something that they feel is doable. When trying to get your child to accomplish a certain task, have them envision what could be an obstacle in their way that may prevent them from achieving that task in a timely manner and what they can do about it to prevent that from becoming a problem.

What to do if your child still procrastinates

-Because your child has not proven that they are able to accomplish certain tasks on a regular basis, start by having what I call the “W conversation” with them.

Regarding the procrastinated task, have them explain:

  • Why is it important to do this without delay?
  • What have your choices resulted in?
  • Who has this affected and in what way?
  • What should you have done?
  • What will you do from this point moving forward?

Kids, in general, love positive reinforcement and praise. When they don’t feel like there are so many strict rules and that they have control over things, they will be more apt to respond in a timely fashion. Sometimes, procrastination is a form of passive-aggressive defiance because it is the one thing that they can control. In that case, it goes back to setting the expectations and adhering to the consequences (if and when they are broken). This takes any emotion out of  the equation and it doesn’t become a personal “I told you to do this because I said so” discussion, but rather “This is important to (me, the family, and you) because….and this is why it is important to do this in a timely manner.”

When it is all said and done, the secret to curbing procrastination lies in how you structure your discipline. It comes down to what specific consequences you feel are appropriate and that you feel comfortable in reinforcing when things are not accomplished on time or have been neglected entirely.

In my best-selling book, The Ultimate Guide to Raising Teens and Tweens, I discuss the different types of discipline strategies in greater depth and how you can apply them in a variety of situations with your teen or tween to help them gain motivation and self-discipline.

If your New Year’s goal is to take charge of your life and stop procrastinating to achieve what is on your New Year’s Resolutions list, all while handling life’s day-to-day responsibilities, download my new program “30 Days to Finding You.” I walk you through my 10-Step Personal Happiness Formula that you can apply to your life, starting today. Click here to learn more. 

To More Motivation and Less Procrastination!