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Five Tips to Prod Your Child out of Procrastinating

As I overheard a conversation with a parent discussing her child’s routine and the late hour the child completed her homework the night before, I thought about how easily we allow our kids to slip into procrastinating habits that result in disastrous consequences. Instead of encouraging behavior toward meeting their responsibilities, we allow distracted effort or inaction. If we teach our kids to overcome the temptation of procrastinating, we give them a valuable skill that reaches into adulthood. 


Here are a few tips to help your child complete required tasks without procrastinating:

1. Consider the “why.” Is there a legitimate reason your child hasn’t started their assignment? Do they have the resources they need? Is there a clear goal in mind? Do they need some organizational help to get started? Do they have a quiet place to work? Every child has different needs, and as parents, we help our children succeed when we provide them with what they need to accomplish the task at hand. That doesn’t mean we dive in and tackle the assignment with them, but it might mean we take them to the store to buy necessary supplies to get started.

2. Break it down. It’s easy to procrastinate a task that appears overwhelming. My son had an assignment recently that required multiple tasks to complete the finished product. When he looked at the project all at once, he became overwhelmed with the amount of work to do. But as I helped him put together a step-by-step outline to proceed to the goal, it empowered him to tackle the assignment. Placing large projects into smaller assignments makes them more manageable to complete and, thus, less likely to be procrastinated.

3. Maintain a balanced routine. If we allow our children to participate in every sport, music, drama and school activity that occurs, we create an unmanageable schedule with little time left over for responsibilities at home. When our children can’t visualize the satisfaction of completing a task when they begin, it’s likely they won’t want to start. So, ask your children what activities interest them most and prioritize their desires to create a schedule that allows time for starting and completing other tasks as well. Rearrange the schedule as necessary to maintain balance.

4. Determine your child’s most productive period. Sometimes parents insist their children complete their homework immediately upon arriving home from school to prevent distractions from interfering with finishing the work later. However, it might not be the most productive time for your child, which encourages procrastinating their best effort. Talk with your child about how they feel when they come home from school. Do they need a snack break? Do they want to shoot the basketball first? Or do they want to immediately start their required tasks at home to allow more time to play later without having to think about the chores or homework that must be done. Be clear with your expectations. If your child doesn’t immediately start their task, make sure they understand why they’re allowed a break (so they will be more productive later) and how much time they have before they must begin the task.

5. Model good habits. Avoid procrastination in your everyday routine. Our children are watching us and will emulate what we do. I love the poem by Edgar Guest that captures the importance of example. Here’s a portion of it: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way. The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear.” If we want to raise young adults who will avoid procrastination, we must avoid it ourselves. 

Procrastinating habits become harder to break the longer they’re practiced. But through intentional effort we, as parents, can teach our children to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination.

Gayla is a freelance writer, and a wife and mom to five children who teaches her children to avoid procrastinating.

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