From the February 2016 issue

Ways to Help a Child Combat Procrastination

Need a prescription for procrastination? Here's how to get your slowpoke scholar on the track to improved productivity.

Many parents grow weary of prodding their kids to do homework or get ready for school. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Kids can break the procrastination habit when they learn the skills and self-discipline needed to start and complete tasks. Here are some tips to help keep elementary students on task.

1. Consider the source

Think about why your child is procrastinating: lack of motivation, distractions, disorganization, feeling overwhelmed or fear of failure driven by perfectionist tendencies. This helps you hone in on how to help.

2. Stick with STING

Try this five-step approach. “S”: Select one task. If it’s a large job, chop it into smaller, manageable tasks. “T”: Set a timer in keeping with your child’s developmental level – five or 10 minutes if she’s younger, longer if she’s older. “I”: Ignore everything else while the timer is ticking. Help her stay focused. Don’t let her start another task until the first is done. “N”: No stopping until the timer goes off. “G”: Give a reward when the timer sounds – like a snack, break to play outside or special time to read a book with mom or dad.

3. Maintain rules

Establish house rules and follow through with consequences if they’re broken. Even if your child hates homework, she needs to know it’s a rule.

4. Teach technique

Don’t assume your child knows how to do something. She may need to be taught how to create a study space or tackle a long assignment. Discuss the task with your child and guide her. Check in with her from time to time to see how she’s doing.

5. Reinforce

Recognize when your child is taking steps toward being responsible and proactive. Praise progress along the way.

6. Maintain daily routines

This is particularly true for young children. They’re less likely to procrastinate if the structure is familiar.

7. Make a list

Some kids feel a sense of accomplishment and stay on task when they make a list and cross items off.

8. Consider teachable times

Wait until your older child is feeling the natural consequences of her procrastination – being late for school, having to miss an activity or getting a poor test score. Then, rather than chastising her, suggest and encourage tactics to change the habit.

9. Work as a team

If you are a procrastinator, suggest teaming up and improving together. Share successes and mistakes in the journey.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Allow trial and error

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all technique when it comes to motivating kids. Discuss what works best for your child and allow some trial and error until she settles into a routine.

13. Slowly turn over the reins

Reversing procrastination is a gradual process that occurs over time, and many kids need to be taught how. Once they learn to break down tasks or organize information, steadily up the level of expectation and let your child become more independent while you keep providing guidance and coaching.

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