Many parents grow weary of prodding their children to do homework, get ready for school or complete household chores. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Kids who procrastinate can break the habit if parents teach them the skills and self-discipline needed to start and complete tasks. Here are 13 tips to help.
Consider the source. Think about why your child is procrastinating: lack of motivation, distractions, disorganization, overwhelmed or fear of failure driven by perfectionist tendencies. Once this is determined, you can help them begin breaking the habit.
Stick with the S.T.I.N.G. approach. “S”: Select one task you want your child to do. If it is a large, overwhelming job, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks. “T”: Set a timer in keeping with your child’s developmental level – 5 or 10 minutes if they're younger, longer if they're older. “I”: Ignore everything else while the timer is ticking. Help them stay focused and free from distractions. Don’t let them start another task until the first one is done. “N”: No breaks allowed until the timer goes off. “G”: Give them a reward when the timer sounds. This can be a snack, a break to play outside or special time to read a book with Mom or Dad.
Maintain rules. Establish house rules and follow through with consequences when rules are broken. Even if your child never sees the value of a clean room, they need to know it’s a rule.
Teach technique. Don’t just assume your child knows how to do something. They may need to be taught how to organize a closet, clean out the toy box or tackle a long assignment. Discuss the project with your child and guide them toward successfully completing it. Check in with them from time to time to see how they're doing.
Reinforce positive behavior. Recognize when your child is taking steps toward being responsible and proactive. Praise the progress along the way.
Maintain daily routines. This is particularly true for young children. They will be less likely to procrastinate if their structure is familiar.
Make a list. Some children feel a sense of accomplishment and stay on task when they make a list and cross items off.
Consider teachable times. Wait until your older child is feeling the natural consequences of his procrastination — being late for school, having to miss an activity or getting a poor test score. Then rather than chastising them, suggest and encourage use of tactics to break the procrastination habit.
Work as a team. If you are a procrastinator, suggest teaming up and breaking the habit together. Share successes and mistakes in the journey.
Add variety and options. If your child procrastinates because of chores, rotate jobs on different days of the week or with different family members to give kids some flexibility and options.
Look at the long haul. Realize the long-term impact of procrastination on your child’s self-esteem and confidence. Young people form their identity based on experiences and beliefs. If they continually see failing grades, get punished or are yelled at for procrastinating it becomes a vicious cycle that chips away at their self-esteem.
Allow trial and error. Remember there is no one-size-fits-all technique when it comes to motivating children to break the procrastination habit. Discuss with your child what method works best for them and allow some trial and error until they settle into a routine.
Gradually turn over the reins. Breaking the procrastination habit is a gradual process that occurs over time, and many children need to be taught how to do it. Once they learn how to break down tasks or organize information, gradually up the level of expectation and let your child become more independent while you continue to provide guidance and coaching.
Most importantly, remember that whatever effort you invest in breaking the procrastination habit will positively impact every area of your child’s life — now and in the future!