6 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Procrastination
I’ll do it after dinner.’
‘Just let me finish this game on my computer, then I’ll do it.’
‘Mom, can you help me do this? It is due tomorrow!’
Procrastination is something that we all do, adults as much as children.
According to Oxford Languages, the definition of procrastination is ‘the action of delaying or postponing something’. Some researchers add the additional nuance of consequences, defining procrastination as being ‘…characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.’
The nuance of negative consequences is important for frustrated parents who cannot understand why their child has put off doing an important school project until the last minute. ‘Don’t you understand how important this is to your grades?’ we ask. ‘Why didn’t you start sooner?’
It is important to understand that procrastinators do recognize that there will likely be negative consequences from procrastinating – but the fear of those consequences is insufficient to overcome the urge to not do something. So just explaining the negative consequences is unlikely to have the desired impact of getting your child to move ahead with a task. You need more concrete actions.
Here are some steps you can take to help your child overcome procrastination:
- Know what has been assigned to your child and when it is due
You cannot help your son or daughter take steps to get something done if you don’t even know that they have to do it. Many schools today have online portals where important assignments and test dates are indicated. Use this information and be aware and interested in what is being assigned to your child. Ask questions regularly about what they need to do for school and the date by which they must do it.
- Help them break a project down into smaller steps
Some tasks or projects can seem overwhelming at the beginning. If your child seems unable to start something, help them break the project down into smaller steps to assist them in getting started. If a math assignment has 10 questions, break the questions down into 3 groups and get started on the first 3 questions without worrying about the rest at the beginning.
- Do not aim for perfection
Help your child understand that you don’t expect 100% on every test or assignment. When a child thinks they must get perfect scores on every test and assignment, it may discourage them from even trying to get something done. Be realistic with your expectations and make sure that your child knows that.
- Use a timer
Agree with your child on a length of time that he or she must work on a task or homework assignment before a break is allowed and set a timer. Setting a timer can help a child focus by eliminating the procrastination opportunity presented by constantly checking a phone or watch. It also helps establish good study habits for later years.
- Establish a reasonable schedule
If your child participates in every activity possible, there will not be enough time to do anything well. Talk with your son or daughter to see where their interests lie. Help them choose some activities in which they are most interested while still leaving enough time for other important tasks.
- Set an example!
Our children copy our behaviour. Set a good example and don’t procrastinate in your own activities.
Helping your children develop habits to avoid or reduce procrastination is important. It will help them not only at school but will serve them well throughout their lives.
 Procrastination in Daily Working Life: A Diary Study on Within-Person Processes That Link Work Characteristics to Workplace Procrastination, by Prem, Scheel, Weigelt, Hoffmann, and Korunka, Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 9, 2018