Procrastination: It isn’t just for adults. In fact, it’s a defense mechanism against stress and anxiety that often develops in childhood. Procrastination is not a character trait that parents would want their kids to develop. However, turning a blind eye to the symptoms of a budding procrastinator is very easy to do. Here’s how you can stop procrastination in its tracks before it gets the best of your son or daughter.
Recognize the True Reasons for Procrastination
Johnny decides not to take out the trash because it’s “too cold.” Annie skips her math homework because she figures she’ll get the answers wrong anyway. It’s easy to shrug off both Johnny and Annie as “lazy kids,” but there’s more to their stories than that.
Johnny finds the act of taking out the trash unpleasant. He’s not motivated to do the job. He doesn’t have a problem with laziness, he has a problem with motivation.
Annie has trouble with algebra and is sure that she’s going to fail her homework. By skipping the assignment, she can blame her “F” on procrastination rather than an intellectual shortcoming. Annie isn’t lazy either, she’s safeguarding her ego from the pain of personal failure.
Procrastination always boils down to self-preservation. The procrastinator doesn’t want to feel stupid, bored, or distressed. Putting off unpleasant tasks is not a symptom of laziness. It’s a symptom of being human.
Establish Accountability to Prevent Procrastination
Accountability is a big word and a big concept, especially for little people, but it can help immensely with procrastination. Kids need to understand that they’re responsible for certain things, and they need to feel rewarded when they act accordingly.
Here are three concrete ways that you can help your child remember the chores/tasks for which he or she is accountable:
- Post a list or chore cart on the refrigerator.
- Create and co-sign a written contract.
- Use anti-procrastination apps, a reminder app, or Beat Procrastination — a behavior modification app.
Establish a Reward System
Some well-meaning behaviorists will tell you that painful punishment is a vital part of “unlearning” a bad habit. With developing children, however, it’s can be more important to reward success than to punish failure.
Rewarding success need not be a costly or grandiose effort on your part. In fact, extrinsic rewards like money, candy, and gifts tend to reduce a child’s motivation. Here are three excellent ways to intrinsically reward a child through verbal commendation:
- “Wow! You must feel really good about yourself for getting that math homework done.”
- “I am proud of you for remembering to take out the trash without being asked.”
- “You make me feel so happy when you complete the tasks on your accountability list!”
As a parent, you are also your child’s life coach. You don’t want to see your son or daughter suffer a lifetime of procrastination catastrophes, so you do everything you can to enhance their personal development. Try these tips and have open conversations about why your child might be procrastinating to help him or her learn to avoid this bad habit as an adult.
If your child truly dislikes school and always avoids doing homework, it may be time for a new school. Visit K12.com to see if online learning might be right for your family.