Do you find yourself constantly thinking or saying, “My child is struggling with ...”?
I read a great article the other day that characterized procrastination as a nasty habit that adds unnecessary pressure to everyday life. Leaving tasks, chores, or assignments until the last minute can lead to poor results, increase of stress, and the feeling of being is a rush or entirely forgetful of the task itself. With youth, this can occur more than they even realize!
When children begin to procrastinate, they undermine their own abilities and performance capabilities to the specific task/subject. Some common focuses that promote procrastination include:
Lack of motivation and self-discipline
Fear of failure or anxiety
Lack of understanding or relevance
Low energy levels or boredom
Poor organization or time management skills
As a parent, take time to hear what your child has to say when you ask them a question or to do a task around the house. Whether it be a chore, a school assignment, or simply a previous commitment that they arranged, the verbal communication they provide should give you an indication of what is to come. Some examples that can be communicated include:
- "I have plenty of time" or "I'll do it later"; followed by
- "I don't want to do"; as well as
- "I can't do it", or, "I won't do a good job"
** This photo was taken from www.learningcommons.sfu.ca *** - something that you can review with your child!
Parent Solutions (What you can do to help)
1. Let the natural process fall in place - Even if it’s hard to watch, consistently require children to endure the real consequences of their procrastination. If they procrastinate on chores, they have to be completed before they go to a friends house; if they don't get something done for school or are forgetting simple tasks ... let them experience their mistakes. Make examples at a young age and they will grow knowing that they will always be held accountable for their procrastination. Giving more time, doing it for them, or making excuses for them will not hold them accountable and let them feel they can continue to get away with future scenarios.
2. Set clear expectations and let them ask questions: When you give them a task or a chore, make sure to be clear in your communication delivery. Allow them to ask any questions they might have. If they are asking questions and attentive to your guidelines, they are more invested in the actual completion of the task. As well, it backs confrontation following in-completion or a poor effort - and eliminates excuses ("I didn't understand")!
3. Acknowledge the fear of failure and prioritize: One of the most common reasons for kids to procrastinate is the constant fear of failure - whether they create unreachable standards that discourage them from pursuing a task, or, procrastinating in a way that protects their self esteem (making excuses to procrastinate).
Once you have confronted their fear of getting a job done, set priorities - label what is most important, what can be done following, and what can be completed later. Understanding due dates, importance, and situation is important for youth to understand when problem solving and learning how to time manage their list of "to-do's".
1. Stop Creating Distractions: When kids figure that they do not want to complete a task assigned to them, they tend to find other activities to do. For example, instead of doing the dishes, they will go to their room and pick up a few items off the floor as a perceived equal value completion. For school assignments, they will go make plans to hang out with friends or work on other homework before getting to the main priority; something that may due soon or worth the most. At the end of the day, it's still going to be there ... just get to work on it early so you aren't stressed or panicked later on!
2. Break Projects or Chores into Smaller Chunks: When kids see a large project, they only focus on what the final completion should look like. Breaking the chore, project, or task into smaller chunks can allow for more smaller successes, sustained motivation, and keeping you focused more to get the job done. For example, listening to a song while folding laundry, or putting a timer on for 20 minutes of straight work on a project will do wonders once they get into a groove and realize how efficient they can be with their time.
3. Make a Deal with Yourself - JUST GET IT DONE: Making a deal with yourself always promotes creative thinking, problem solving, and at the end of the day completing what needs to get done. For example, just doing the introduction of an essay for school one night can show you how efficiently it can be done - which could lead you to continuing on working through the next section. If you want to go to a friends house, make sure that you have done the laundry - and hold yourself accountable. Don't leave until it's done. Being 5 minutes late the first time is temporary; your friend will survive without your company for that short time ... but building accountability habits and doing it right away next time will make you mentally stronger for the future.
What a Life Coach can do for your Child
1. Hold your child accountable: I was talking with a client about procrastination and putting away his folded laundry. I asked him to time himself and see if he could put it all away before a song he was listening too was over. The next time I saw him, he told me confidently and almost with some some cockiness that he destroyed the time to put it all away. I asked him how it felt that doing something he would put off for weeks really took less than a 3 minute song. He went red and realized how efficiently things could be done when he actually focused and eliminated any distractions. Hearing it from your parents can become consistent - hearing it from your life coach can put small procrastination habits into perspective!
2. Using our own experiences to relate and justify: I'm just as guilty as some of these kids when I was their age and procrastination. I'm sure my mom reading this would 100% agree with me; not starting to boil the water before she got home to make pasta, booking it downstairs as fast as I could to switch over the laundry to the dryer when I saw her car pull into the driveway; I get it ... we are aren't perfect. However, being able to give my clients a personal story and my recollection looking back makes them feel more valued and involved in making changes to their lifestyle.
3. Identifying Distractions and Utilizing their Resources: This one is the big "go-to". One of the main focuses of life coaching is helping youth identify why they get distracted, what goes through their mind when they don't want to do something, and how they can manage them. Additionally, life coaching helps them identify what resources they have to help them stay focused and on time. Having a timer on the phone to get something done or waiting on so they don't forget? Making a to-do list before they get to go out for the day? It's not my job to tell them what to do - but to facilitate discussion and let them realize what different approaches and strategies they can use to maximize efficiency and eliminate procrastination!
This is another great topic that I know many youth struggle with today. Having a life coach can help facilitate discussion with your child and give them an opportunity to get a non-judgmental opinion and perspective. Any interest, questions, comments, or concerns about your child and getting them on the right track? Send a message today!
Matthew Ragogna, Certified Life Coach